When the Reckoning Comes

Latanya McQueen. HarperPerennial, $17 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-303504-1
McQueen’s arresting debut novel (after the essay collection And It Begins Like This) features a vengeance-fueled ghost story on a former tobacco plantation. Mira, a Black high school teacher in present-day Winston-Salem, N.C., fled her segregated hometown of Kipsen on a college scholarship, leaving behind her close friend and love interest Jesse and their friend Celine, who is white. McQueen shuffles Mira’s flashbacks to high school with passages describing memories of the enslaved people who haunt the Woodsman plantation, unfurling a fateful night when the friends trespassed on the plantation ruins and Jesse was suspected of murder after the body of a white man was found nearby. A decade later, Celine invites Mira to Celine’s wedding at the renovated plantation, which has been turned into a resort and tourist attraction, defending her choice against Mira’s objections: “It hasn’t been a plantation for over a hundred years, and it’s not like my family owned slaves.” But many of the guests’ ancestors did, which doesn’t bode well for them on the ghosts’ turf. Readers might lose their suspension of disbelief at certain supernatural moments, but McQueen does a good job balancing the various timelines to show how a place can be haunted by living history. This leaves readers with much to consider. Agent: Monika Woods, Triangle House Literary Agency. (Aug.)
Reviewed on : 06/10/2021
Release date: 06/01/2021
Genre: Fiction
Ebook - 240 pages - 978-0-06-303505-8
Paperback - 978-0-06-309065-1
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