cover image River Mumma

River Mumma

Zalika Reid-Benta. Erewhon, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-1-64566-135-1

Reid-Benta’s stunning debut draws on Caribbean myth, horror, and old-school urban fantasy (think Charles de Lint, not Kelley Armstrong) to build a quest tale for the postpandemic generation of the region’s diaspora. Alicia Gale is 26 and sulking through her underemployed days working retail while living with her mom in a Toronto apartment. Cut off from her Jamaican roots and her American education alike, she is wholly unprepared for the vision that confronts her on a cold night walk: River Mumma, spirit of the water, rising from the Humber River and demanding restoration of a comb that a tourist has stolen. If it is not returned to her, River Mumma will withdraw her waters. The next morning, Alicia and her friends Heaven and Mars endure a commute from hell, pursued by a violent duppy, or malevolent spirit. After that, there’s no denying the truth of the mystical forces suddenly intersecting her life. Alicia has until sunset to return the comb or bear witness to ecological catastrophe. Into this simple plot are mixed elements from every stratum of a young adult’s life, including heritage, family, neighborhood, work, school, pop culture, and more. It’s a rich and sometimes even dizzying brew that marks the emergence of a powerful new voice. Agent: Amy Tompkins, Transatlantic Literary. (Feb.)