cover image Remembrance


Rita Woods. Forge, $27.99 (416p) ISBN 978-1-250-29845-4

The trauma of slavery forms the core of Woods’s arresting debut, which weaves together tales of four black women from the late 1700s to the present day. Gaelle, originally from Haiti, is a nurse’s aide working in a care facility in contemporary Ohio, where a dour resident named Winter abruptly grabs her, transmitting a familiar, hot, seemingly otherworldly energy. Stumbling against the wall, Gaelle falls into a dream state. The narrative then jumps to rural 1857 Louisiana, where Margot, a 17-year-old slave, decides to escape to New Orleans, where a priestess named Abigail is rumored to protect slaves. As the story hopscotches through time, it hits 1852, when teenage Winter lives with Abigail in a magical Ohio sanctuary called Remembrance, and 1791, when Abigail honed her powers. But by the time Margot finds Abigail, her powers are beginning to diminish. The magical abilities manifest differently—Gaelle can sense the past through touch, Abigail bends space to create a protected area, Margot can heal with her touch, Winter can break into “spaces between spaces”—and helps each fight the racist conventions of their eras. Fine attention to sensory details and brutal honesty concerning the horrors of slavery and racial relations over more than two centuries of American history make this a standout. (Jan.)