The Celestial Jukebox is set in the invented Mississippi Delta town of Madagascar. Shearer's rural south is dependent on the rather less attractive fruits of capitalism, including agribusiness, gambling, and the dwindling vices surrounding the ...
retail trades. The mood feels like a very humid melancholy. And into this weather comes Boubacar, a 15-year-old boy from Africa joining friends from Mauritania already living in the area-new African blacks not especially noteworthy in a small town filled with Chinese emigrants, African Americans within memory of slavery, straggling members of the original white families of the area, and unsorted other imports. Boubacar visits The Celestial Grocery, the virtual city center presided over by a cranky second-generation Chinese proprietor and his equally cranky jukebox that often hoards its treasure of Slim Harpo, Sam Cooke, and Wanda Jackson, when stuck on the same sad Louvin Brothers song. The tie that binds all these lives is American popular music, its origins and power. The purity and beauty of the writing-like the purity of the imagined soundtrack of more than 30 songs that exists within this story-marks The Celestial Jukebox as a rare book, filled with music, struggle, and spontaneous joy.