The Talented Ribkins by Ladee Hubbard

The Talented Ribkins by Ladee HubbardThe Talented Ribkins by Ladee Hubbard
Published by Melville House Publishing on August 8, 2017
Pages: 292
IndieBoundBarnes & NobleAmazon

At seventy-two, Johnny Ribkins shouldn’t have such problems: He’s got one week to come up with the money he stole from his mobster boss or it’s curtains.

What may or may not be useful to Johnny as he flees is that he comes from an African-American family that has been gifted with super powers that are a bit, well, odd. Okay, very odd. For example, Johnny's father could see colors no one else could see. His brother could scale perfectly flat walls. His cousin belches fire. And Johnny himself can make precise maps of any space you name, whether he's been there or not.

In the old days, the Ribkins family tried to apply their gifts to the civil rights effort, calling themselves The Justice Committee. But when their, eh, superpowers proved insufficient, the group fell apart. Out of frustration Johnny and his brother used their talents to stage a series of burglaries, each more daring than the last.

Fast forward a couple decades and Johnny’s on a race against the clock to dig up loot he's stashed all over Florida. His brother is gone, but he has an unexpected sidekick: his brother's daughter, Eloise, who has a special superpower of her own.

Inspired by W. E. B. Du Bois’s famous essay “The Talented Tenth” and fuelled by Ladee Hubbard’s marvelously original imagination, The Talented Ribkins is a big-hearted debut novel about race, class, politics, and the unique gifts that, while they may cause some problems from time to time, bind a family together.

A big-hearted novel about a family with special gifts who sometimes stumble in their efforts to succeed in life, The Talented Ribkins draws on such novels as Toni Morrison’s SulaThe Intuitionist to weave themes of race, class, and politics into a wonderfully accomplished and engaging novel.



The Talented Ribkins is a great multigenerational road trip adventure that gently tackles themes such as race, class, politics, and family. It’s literary fiction with a dash of superhero novel added in: Most of the characters have special powers, and the older characters once used those powers for good during the civil rights era. As 72-year-old Johnny and his newly-discovered niece travel across Florida to dig up bags of money Johnny had hidden during his younger years (he’s got a debt to pay and a tight deadline), we meet more and more characters and really get to know the Ribkins family.

It’s an exciting, sweet story, but as you mull over the themes, you find it’s actually much deeper than that. There are so many layers! This is the kind of book you can read more than once and have a different perspective and more insight each time, depending on how you approach it.

This book made me happy and made me think. Highly recommend!

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review this book. Check out what other readers have to say about The Talented Ribkins by visiting other stops on the tour. 

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  • HeatherTLC

    I’m looking forward to reading this one – the depth to the story is really appealing to me!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!

  • This sounds delightful. There’s nothing like a book that manages to be heartwarming or fun while still tackling important themes.