Great Expectations by Vinson Cunningham - review by Zack Graham

Zack Graham

A Dream Deferred

Great Expectations


riverrun 272pp £18.99

It’s 9 November 2008. I’m an eighteen-year-old high-school senior meandering around Grant Park, the throbbing heart of my hometown of Chicago. Tens of thousands of people chatter, chew lips, squirm. A dozen elderly black women beside me hold hands, close their eyes and pray. The whole world is watching us as we await the impossible. Surely, it cannot come to pass; surely, in a moment, we will wake to find that it was all a dream.

But we do not wake. Just after midnight, CBS announces that Barack Obama is projected to have captured enough votes to be elected the forty-fourth president of the United States. The elderly black ladies next to me burst into tears. I cannot in good faith tell you how bizarre it is to witness twelve of the toughest human beings on planet Earth sobbing in unison, but as I watch them shudder and shake and swim through hugs, I realise they don’t know whether they are celebrating or grieving.

A few hundred feet away from me stands the narrator of New Yorker staff writer and theatre critic Vinson Cunningham’s debut novel, Great Expectations. He has worked on the Obama campaign for eighteen months and is elated to witness the ‘junior Senator from Illinois’ deliver his acceptance speech. 

Sixteen years

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