Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Author’s Journal | Pen Date 2.7.22 | TW: Language, Violence, Death, Bigotry, Racism
If you’ve read Razorblade Tears, let me know your thoughts in the comments! Or if you plan on reading it, what has you the most excited?
Even though it’s only the first book I’ve finished in 2022, Razorblade Tears may end up being the best book that I read all year.
That’s not me being facetious either.
What Cosby accomplishes within these pages is a litany of things. It’s inspiring, emotionally heart-wrenching, and ultimately a beautiful and suspense-ridden story that readers will not want to put down.
Ike Randolph and Buddy Lee Jenkins are our protagonists in a story that spans generational trauma, LGBTQIA prejudices, wealth disparity, and of course the big one: race in the south – and to a larger degree modern day America.
Unfortunately, what unites these two men is the death of their sons Derek and Isiah. Two men so unlike their fathers. Upstanding citizens, caring sons, doting husbands to one another, and fathers to little three-year-old Arianna.
In death, it’s hard not to feel for Derek and Isaiah, despite never knowing them. Survivors of their fathers’ abuse, neither man was ever able to have a good relationship with Ike or Buddy-Lee.
On the other hand, as convicted ex-felons, life was hard enough for Ike and Buddy Lee. But they only make it more difficult on themselves as they refused to acknowledge their sons in life. So, the two men meet stood over their boys’ grave trying to find acceptance in their death.
Ike tries to move on, but Buddy Lee can’t. He needs justice.
After almost a half year, the police have no leads as to who robbed the men of their sons so brutally and violently.
With the destruction of Isiah and Derek’s headstone, the men are primed for street justice. They combine know-how and resources to solve the mystery of who stole their sons from them.
Neither man is looking to play detective. Both Buddy Lee and Ike harden themselves. Together, they assume the responsibilities of not only the jury, but also the executioner.
Violence abounds, as the two men deal with a motorcycle gang, drug dealers, and heavy assault weaponry. To avenge their boys amidst it all, Ike and Buddy Lee isolate from loved ones, only to see them drawn into the skirmish.
In the end, Razorblade Tears will leave readers in tears, not because it’s over, but because it happened.
These characters have so much depth and heart. Not to mention the story telling.
Ike is a man who spent SEVEN years in prison, missing his little boy grow into a man. But, he exits the system a man who knows what he wants – to never go back. And, “he had bucked those recidivism statistics eve since he’d walked out of that festering wound.”
Uneducated and a career criminal, Buddy Lee has little to show for his life except Alcohol Use Disorder, a crappy trailer, and a beat-up old truck. His wife left him for a rich soon-to-be governor, and he’s got nobody now that Derek is dead. But we watch Buddy Lee grow. I don’t think I’d call him a racist, but he sure does put his foot in his mouth, and he definitely wouldn’t be an ally . . .
Thankfully, Ike knows Buddy Lee’s heart’s in the right place and by the end, we start seeing a different Buddy Lee.
From these snippets, hopefully future readers get a sense of S.A. Crosby’s story telling. It is elegantly face-passed and capable of keeping readers on the hook, while avoiding the pitfall of falling into moral platitudes that can, for lack of a better word, come across as preachy.
That said, Cosby writes multiple characters who are near-polar-opposites to one another. Yet, they all feel genuine and real to themselves rather than their stereotypes.
Really not much bad. I had a first edition and I think it had more spelling/grammar/syntax errors than I’m used to, but it wasn’t much.
The violence and characters penchant for bigotry and racism may certainly require some trigger warnings for potential readers, but it’s necessary to the story. I’d personally go as far as saying, I believe it’s done respectfully to ensure authenticity, while sidestepping prejudicial narratives.
Lastly, it’ll make you cry. Which may be a good thing if that’s what you’re looking for.
This is my SPOILER WARNING peeps.
You read it, you want to know how I felt about the ending? That’s what’s bout to happen.
I didn’t see the bad guy being Gerald Culpepper until it basically was announced, but it made for a nice little twist, and I can see the clues in hindsight.
The shootout and rescue of Arianna was amazing and pulse-pounding. I couldn’t get enough of it. That book did not leave my hands for the last 25 pages or so.
Then, Cosby broke me twice. The emotional and heart-wrenching ending didn’t leave me without a few tear stains on my cheeks.
The tears started at, “There’s my Little Bit” from Tangy. God, that just shattered me. I believe, only Buddy Lee ever called Arianna that, and it was just this reminder that he wasn’t coming home. I think it also showed how Tangy saw him in the end. She saw him as a good man.
Now, I must soapbox his progression as a character again. It was impeccable. He’s not a bad guy when you meet him, but he’s done and said bad things. That’s putting it lightly, trust me, I know. Yet, at the end, you realize even though he’s dying of cancer, this hasn’t been a suicide mission.
See, he’s not trying to go out in a blaze of glory, nor without a fight. It’s just that if this is his last fight, he wants nothing more than for it to be a fight in honor of his son.
Then there’s the second time the tears started flowing, and they stayed with me until the very end. It was at the petunias. The fucking petunias.
There was something about the finality of it all, but also it just being another person impacted by Buddy Lee. There were so many more great quotes in these final pages as Ike sits with Buddy Lee, then the boys. I’m tearing up as I read over them now.
Go read Razorblade Tears. It’s 100% worth your time. 5 Stars, no doubts.
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