cover image The Reckonings: Essays

The Reckonings: Essays

Lacy M. Johnson. Scribner, $26 (336p) ISBN 978-1-5011-5900-8

Johnson’s heart is in the right place with this wide-ranging collection of essays on suffering and inequality in 21st-century America, but her vision needs more substance. Johnson (The Other Side) begins by answering the question often posed to her about the boyfriend who raped and tried to kill her: what would she like to have happen to him? What she wishes, she says, is not revenge but for him to admit his crimes and “then to spend the rest of his life in service to others’ joy.” From there, Johnson launches into a series of meditations on sexual violence, her work with children with cancer, white privilege, the Deepwater Horizon spill, nuclear waste from WWII buried in a suburb of St. Louis, Mo. , the flooding of Houston during Hurricane Harvey, and Trump’s presidential victory. While one might agree that many of the situations she describes are disturbing (though conservatives may object to her election commentary), Johnson veers too often into preachiness (“Whatever kinds of ideas you have about people who come from wherever you are not from, stop holding on to them”). Commendably, she emphasizes humane ideals—peace, community, grace, joy—as a foundation on which to build a better world. However, by the book’s end, one wonders what she has to say that hasn’t been said before. [em](Oct.) [/em]