Review: Forty Acres by Dwayne Alexander Smith

Forty AcresWhat if overcoming the legacy of American slavery meant bringing back that very institution? A young black attorney is thrown headlong into controversial issues of race and power in this page-turning and provocative new novel.

Martin Grey, a smart, talented black lawyer working out of a storefront in Queens, becomes friendly with a group of some of the most powerful, wealthy, and esteemed black men in America. He’s dazzled by what they’ve accomplished, and they seem to think he has the potential to be as successful as they are. They invite him for a weekend away from it all—no wives, no cell phones, no talk of business. But far from home and cut off from everyone he loves, he discovers a disturbing secret that challenges some of his deepest convictions…

Martin finds out that his glittering new friends are part of a secret society dedicated to the preservation of the institution of slavery—but this time around, the black men are called “Master.” Joining them seems to guarantee a future without limits; rebuking them almost certainly guarantees his death. Trapped inside a picture-perfect, make-believe world that is home to a frightening reality, Martin must find a way out that will allow him to stay alive without becoming the very thing he hates.

A novel of rage and compassion, good and evil, trust and betrayal, Forty Acres is the thought-provoking story of one man’s desperate attempt to escape the clutches of a terrifying new moral order.


I love the concept of Forty Acres. I love the whole idea of turning the tables and the possibility it allows for enlightening more people. Slavery is an absolutely horrible practice. I personally find it repugnant. I’m gob-smacked when I come across people who believe in race-differences and embracing something like slavery. I have actually come across these people. I’m super white, as in I’m pale enough to blend into white, and I have had people coming up to me and talking to me about ‘White Power’ and other such nonsense.

These people leave me speechless. At first with shock and then with pure rage. This is a reaction I experienced while reading Forty Acres. These men, the members of Forty Acres, are so brainwashed and irrational. Except, if you empathise enough, you can understand how something like this could come about.

Two wrongs don’t make a right. This is something I firmly believe, but that doesn’t mean human beings avoid continuously making wrongs. Human beings often correct wrongs with more wrongs. People can be easily brain-washed and led astray. We’re very susceptible creatures. We like to think we’re individuals, but we’re actually very easily manipulated. Introduce an enigmatic character with a persuasive argument, the ability to have the answer for all doubts, and you’ve got yourself keys to lead to successful brainwashing.

As much as I wanted to love Forty Acres, and as much as I couldn’t put it down at times, I felt there was something missing. The story didn’t quite hit the mark. There was a great deal of showing, which is fantastic, but then it was followed by telling. This gave the impression of reading a story where the reader is considered below average intelligence. It happens sometimes and I know perceptions of intelligence is not always the case, but it doesn’t make reading the story any easier.

I feel much of the telling could have been whittled down in favour for more character development.Perhaps tighter friendships and interactions could have caused even more intensity and shocks.

Forty Acres is definitely an intriguing and unique concept. Forty Acres makes you think. I found it made me consider the possibility of something like the Forty Acres complex to happen. It’s possible a place like Forty Acres exists and I think this is one reason why it makes Forty Acres hard to put down at times.

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