Three-Fifths by John Vercher – Book Review

Title: Three-Fifths

Author: John Vercher

Genre: Fiction/Thriller

Publisher: Pushkin Press

Publication Date: 1st October 2020

Rating: 5/5



Pittsburgh, 1995. Twenty-two year old Bobby Saraceno is a biracial man, passing for white. Bobby has hidden his identity from everyone, even his best friend and fellow comic-book geek, Aaron, who has just returned from prison a newly radicalized white supremacist.

During the night of their reunion, Bobby witnesses Aaron mercilessly assault a young black man with a brick. In the wake of this horrifying act of violence, Bobby must conceal his unwitting involvement in the crime from the police, as well as battle with his own personal demons. A harrowing story about racism and brutality that is more urgent now than ever.


This book has actually been on my radar for a while now and I’m so glad it more than lived up to my high expectations. The story follows Bobby, a young man living in Pittsburgh who has concealed the truth of his parentage and consequently his biracial identity from everyone, including his best friend, Aaron, who has just gotten out of prison a drastically changed man. Bobby is then witness to a horrific attack by Aaron on a young Black man and the story propels in a high-intensity manner from there.

This is not an easy book to read, that does have to be said. It is brutal, unflinching and makes you want to look away at times. However this is precisely why Three-Fifths is such a necessary and incredibly powerful read. It is set in 1995 and I wish I could say it was a changed world and that some of the issues in this book are no longer prevalent, however that is sadly very much not the case and there is a heart-wrenching relevance to this story. The events of the book take place over just a few days and it is easily a possible ‘read in one sitting’ book because it totally grabs you in it’s clutches and holds on until the genuinely soul-shattering finale. I don’t want to give much away plot-wise because it is best to experience it as it unfolds. There is an impressive immediacy to it that makes this a completely gripping read from start to finish.

There is a lot of hate and violence in this book but what makes it so brilliant is that it is not quite as simple as that. There are no easy answers in Three-Fifths and Vercher brings so much emotion and an almost uncomfortable honesty which absolutely floored me. This book touches on so many areas like family, self-identity, friendship, race and the danger of stereotypes and pride. Something else I think it does phenomenally well is it’s examination of masculinity and especially masculinity within male friendship. I thought this would be an impressive book due to the praise it has garnered but it surpassed my high expectations and completely blew me away. An easy five stars from me. I can’t wait to read whatever this talented author writes next.

I received an e-arc of the book through Netgalley. My review is entirely my own honest opinion.

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