REVIEW: The Bourbon Thief by Tiffany Reisz

The Bourbon ThiefThe Bourbon Thief by Tiffany Reisz

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This review was originally posted on Around the World in 80 Books as our first joint review!


Initial reaction:

Heather – Um, what?! The synopsis is intentionally vague because I had no idea what I was getting into. I love reading about the darkness that is in everyone, but man is it difficult to stomach. I kind of thought that maybe something was up with Levi and Tamara, but I didn’t want to believe it.
TQ – Not quite what you were expecting, was it? Tiffany is such a fabulous storyteller. Beautiful prose, challenging our perceptions of right, wrong, and what’s acceptable in society. A bit of the supernatural and a little history. You love the ending even if you don’t want to love the ending…

Controversial issues:

Heather – So, incest is a thing in this book. First with the grandfather trying to rape his granddaughter (btw, go Tamara for being your own hero), then knowing that Tamara and Levi are half-siblings… I just… It’s hard to come to truth with those sort of topics. I don’t know any other author who could have handled it half as well. I hate/ love that Tiffany makes the reader like the sex scenes.
TQ – It’s the juxtaposition of the two instances that gets you. You have an immediate visceral reaction to one. It’s wrong and horrible; you don’t doubt that for even a second. But, the other? Not so much. You start to question yourself. Why don’t I hate this? And like you said, you like the sex scenes even after you know the truth. Tiffany writes amazing sex that always pushes the envelope but you can’t resist loving it.

Race and historical fiction:

Heather – As if the incest wasn’t enough, there’s a whole second layer (which is more prominent throughout the novel) of racism. The bourbon company was started because a slave was sold; Levi is half-black, but passing, and loses many privileges when his heritage is figured out; Levi is punched by police officers trying to rough him up. This takes place in the late 70s in the South, racism was happening then just as much as it happens now. I think that this topic was handled with care, but not delicately, if that makes sense.
TQ – Levi isn’t really passing, at least not intentionally, though at one point he did. Everyone that actually knows him knows that he’s black. What’s interesting about the passing aspect is what it says about our assumptions of race and ethnicity. The narrow view the world holds on what’s black and what’s not. It emphasizes race as a social construct.

A love story?

TQ – Yes? Yes. Tragic, maybe. Actually, no I wouldn’t call it tragic. It certainly wasn’t for Tamara and Levi. It’s their truth and their love, and we don’t have to like it or agree with it, but it’s not our life. They’re the only family they have left really.
Heather – Yes, it is. Despite how gross and taboo, they are in love. They decide that they still want to be together, which goes past superficial attraction to deep connection.

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