Chona runs a grocery store in the poor section of town, and refuses to move when her husband starts moving up in the world. She loves her neighbors and they love her. They help each other and love each other, and that's what matters, that's what life, and this book, is about.
McBride dedicates his book to Sy Friend, who taught him the meaning of the Jewish expression Tikkun Olam: to make the world a better place. McBride worked at Friend's camp for disabled children, and wanted to write a book about this experience; in a round about way, he did.
This is a fast-paced, hilarious, serious, sad and inspiring tale of the people of one town in Pennsylvania, as they love, laugh and weep, cause trouble, hurt each other, but ultimately come together when one of their own is in trouble.
The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store reads like jazz music, fast jazz music! I noticed the same in McBride's 1996 autobiographical novel, The Color of Water, but here he really amps it up! Bee-bop-dee-bop the words jam; here's the story, be-blam; an astute character observance, be-bam; a searing social commentary, wham; never miss a beat, damn! But warning: Read in the daytime, not with Mr. Sandman.
This video reveals McBride as a bright spirit (see the expressions in his eyes); he explains his intentions with the novel. The interviewer is unintentionally comical when he mispronounces the name of one of the characters. McBride very kindly corrects him.