Aaron, who forbade Bobby’s visits, now sports Aryan Brotherhood tattoos, a shaven head and a pumped-up physique; after a hostile encounter in a fast food outlet, he beats a young black man unconscious with a brick. Bobby, whose conflicted loyalties are exacerbated by the fact that he keeps his mixed-race identity secret, is further confused when he meets the father he’d been told was dead, but who turns out to be treating Aaron’s victim.
The novel is infused with dread from the outset, when Bobby finishes his shift in a diner and finds a menacing figure waiting for him. He doesn’t immediately recognise his best friend, Aaron, who has just been released from prison. Aaron has undergone a physical transformation, becoming more muscular, while new tattoos expose his affiliation to a white supremacist organisation, the Aryan Brotherhood.
The dialogue is also notable, realistic and vibrant, with conversations that take unlikely turns. Any world Vercher turns his hand to – the service industry, a hospital, the break-up of a marriage, racist America – comes alive on the page. The novel’s title might deal in fractions but Three-Fifths delivers as a whole.