Crossings, by Alex Landragin

Alex Landragin’s Crossings is the kind of book that I’ve been waiting for, but not because of its content. With the exception of the Choose Your Own Adventure novels—which I was a big fan of when I was younger—we generally read books from page 1 straight through until the end. We might have footnotes to break up our linear progression. Some rare readers might jump back and forth in nonfiction books to read endnotes. I’m surprised that it’s taken someone this long to write a book that capitalizes on the ebook format to give you options as to the order in which you can read it.

An introduction by a modern-day bookbinder sets up the strange journey ahead of us readers. The bookbinder tells us that the baroness who gave him the book to bind dies before he can complete the job. The book binder’s wife reads the manuscript and, together, they tell us that we can read the book either straight from the beginning to the end…or we can read it in the order the baroness presented it in. Being a traditional sort of person—as well as being a little bit paranoid that I might mess up the baroness’ ordering—I read the book from cover to cover. (I did skip around using the links to see what the baroness’ order might be like.)

Portrait of Baudelaire c. 1844, by Emile Deroy (Image via Wikicommons)

Funny enough, the traditional ordering tells the overall story out of order. (What even is order, at this point?) We’re taken to Brussels in the mid-1800s. Poet and gadfly Charles Baudelaire is down on his luck. He is living at a down-at-heel hotel in a city he loathes to escape his debts back in Paris. After a disastrous dinner with some of the few people who might be willing to lend him a franc, Charles is approached by a woman who claims to be his long-lost lover. The problem is that his lover disappeared years ago and, more importantly, this woman doesn’t look anything like Jeanne Duval. This meeting is our introduction to a strange story that stretches from the eighteenth century in the South Pacific to 1830s New Orleans to Paris on the eve of World War II.

Landragin blends together actual history—Baudelaire and Walter Benjamin‘s deaths, French colonizing in the South Pacific, American slavery—with fiction to create Crossings. I’m not sure what having two orders for the chapters added anything, to be honest, I really liked reading this book from cover to cover and sinking deeper into the mystery of how souls from a South Pacific island jump from body to body to travel thousands of miles and hundreds of years. The first crossing happened by accident when an indigenous man was killed by a French sailor. He and his lover reflexively crossed into two of the French crew. After that, crossing (and displacing resident souls) turns into a means of perhaps reuniting in the future…and as a method for gaining power and immortality.

Readers who like unconventional stories or stories that blend history with fantasy in original ways might enjoy puzzling their way through Crossings.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher, by Kate Summerscale

I’ve been re-watching CSI during the continued lock-down. It’s an old favorite, even though there are some things that make me roll my eyes after so many months listening to true crime podcasts. (DNA results within a day? Forensic analysts interviewing people? Please.) In addition to providing great background noise, CSI has also provided an interesting counterpoint to The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher, by Kate Summerscale. This book has been on my to-read list for ages and I noticed one night while scrolling through the online listings by my local public library that it was available. The book details the shocking murder of Francis Saville Kent, aged 3, in 1860. When compared to the high tech possibilities of current criminal investigation, how on earth was it possible for a police detective to try and solve a case at a time when fingerprints were unknown?

On the night of June 29-30, 1860, Francis Saville Kent was taken from his crib in a room he shared with his younger sister and governess, had his throat cut, and was placed in the vault of the outhouse. There was very little evidence to on. All Detective Jack Whicher had to go on, once he was summoned from London to Road in Wiltshire, was an upper middle class family who weren’t talking, a scrap of bloody newspaper, and a missing nightgown that belonged to the murdered boy’s older half-sister, Constance.

Detective Jack Whicher, c. 1860 (Image via Wikicommons)

If the case had happened in our era, samples would be taken from throughout Road Hill House. Fingerprint dust would be scattered everywhere. The family and servants would be asked for their DNA and fingerprints for comparison purposes. All Whicher had at the time were interviews. He talked to everyone in Road Hill House and something about Constance Kent struck him as wrong, so Whicher kept digging. Whicher started to talk to Constance’s school friends, looking for a motive, because he was sure that Constance had killed her brother.

While she details Whicher’s investigation and the subsequent legal wranglings, Summerscale dives into the world of Victorian detection. She explores fictional and actual detectives, and the tension between their popularity (true crime fans are nothing new) and the repulsion the public felt at detectives rooting out the skeletons in everyone’s closets. Summerscale even discusses Victorian language as words like “hunch” came to be associated with detectives. This last might sound boring but having Summerscale explain Victorian innuendo was extremely helpful. For example, knowing that when Victorians describe a relationship as “close,” what they really meant was secretive.

I was fascinated by The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher. In addition to being a great piece of true crime writing (Summerscale clearly did a ton of research for this book), it’s a brilliant example of social history. I definitely recommend this to fans of crime history, especially ones who read a lot of current true crime. Taking a look 160 years back had me thinking about what has changed and what hasn’t. While we rely on DNA and physical evidence to clinch cases, we still put a lot of stock in confessions and eyewitness statements. We love a good detective—until it looks like they might be wrong and are harassing someone who has been judged innocent in the court of public opinion. One thing that definitely hasn’t changed is our desire, even if we’re not in law enforcement ourselves, to try and figure out whodunit.

The Yield, by Tara June Winch

Yield is one of the first words in one of the documents—a dictionary and family history written by Albert Gondiwindi—that comprises The Yield, by Tara June Winch. The word “yield” has different meanings in English. In one sense, to yield means to surrender, to give way. In another sense, a yield is something that the land gives up when a field is harvested. I puzzled over the relationship between these meanings as I read about the long history of the Gondiwindi family, from the late nineteenth century to the present, when August Gondiwindi returns from abroad for Albert’s funeral and discovers that her family’s home and land might get snatched out from under them again.

Australia has a long, troubled history with the Aboriginal Australians and Torres Islanders—one that is very similar to the treatment of indigenous people by white Americans and Canadians. First, their land was stolen. Next, men and boys were taken for labor and their women sexually abused. In the twentieth century, children were taken from their families to schools where they were abused and all ties to their cultures were cut. These children are now called the Stolen Generations or Stolen Children. Although Aboriginal people and Torres Islanders have won back some rights in recent decades, racism is still endemic in places. All of this history is visible in the three narratives that make up The Yield. In addition to being beautifully written, this novel is one of the best and most accessible introductions to Aboriginal history I’ve ever read.

The first narrator in The Yield, Albert Gondiwindi, is one of the Stolen Children who devoted his life to recapturing the history, language, and survival techniques of his people. (The author’s note explains that the words that make up Albert’s dictionary are from the Wiradjuri language.) His definitions are mixed up with scenes from his life, from his childhood right through to his old age. Even though Albert has lost a lot of his heritage, the words help him reconnect with his ancestors. The second narrator, also introduced through a document, is Reverend Ferdinand Greenleaf. Greenleaf founded a mission on Gondiwindi land in the 1880s out of a sense of compassion for the Aboriginal people he saw constantly discriminated against, hurt, and even killed by white settlers. Greenleaf wrote a long letter during World War I that reflected back on his years at the Prosperous Mission. Greenleaf’s letter provides even more historical context for the story for the third narrator, Albert’s granddaughter August.

The brolga plays a small, critical role in The Yield. (Image via Wikicommons)

August returns to Prosperous after 10 years in England. When she was a teenager, August ran away from everything she knew to get away from memories of abuse and, most of all, the abduction of her older sister. She’s only back in Australia because her grandfather has passed away. August plans to leave right after the funeral but, on her arrival, she learns that her grandmother is being evicted. The land is going to be torn up for an open pit tin mine. The Gondiwindi had their land stolen more than a century ago. The white people who “owned” the land afterwards only had a 99-year lease. Because so much of their heritage has been lost or forgotten, the family has no way to stop the mining company that will destroy their ancestral land. Or do they?

I enjoyed reading The Yield immensely. I really can’t praise this book highly enough. From the dictionary and Greenleaf’s letter, to the Aboriginal knowledge of Australia’s flora and fauna, and Albert’s time-traveling with his deceased ancestors, to August’s struggles between remembering the traumas of her past and her determination to take back what belongs to her family—I loved it all. Everyone who’s ever been curious about Australia beyond tales of exiled convicts and the exotic locale should read this book.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss for review consideration.

The Lost Future of Pepperharrow, by Natasha Pulley

I’ve been waiting impatiently for Natasha Pulley to write another book featuring the all-knowing Keita Mori and synesthetic Thaniel Steepleman, first introduced in The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. The characters were too good and too original to be one-offs. The Lost Future of Pepperharrow brings the lovers to Mori’s homeland, Japan, where events seem to be spiraling into open war between Russia and Japan.

We learned in The Watchmaker of Filigree Street that Mori has the ability to remember the future. Yes, you read that correctly. Mori remembers the future and is able to manipulate events to achieve his goals. These manipulations are small, usually in the form of a word dropped in someone’s ear or a meeting between two people who will achieve great things. In spite of (and because of) this awesome power, Mori lives a low-key life with Thaniel in London with their adopted daughter, Six. But, as The Lost Future of Pepperharrow opens, Mori is beginning to make things move. The only problem is, this time, he can’t remember why. All he can remember is that it has something to do with microscopes.

As they do when Mori is involved, events begin to conspire around the pair. The growing crisis leads the Foreign Office to dispatch Thaniel to Tokyo to translate for the British legation, with Six in tow, at the same time that Mori returns from his mysterious errands in St. Petersburg and Paris. Even though the three travel together to Japan, it isn’t long before plans laid years ago start to pull them apart. Pulley ratchets up the tension throughout the novel by revealing that Mori’s future memory is getting worse. Without Mori’s deft control on events and no clear goal in sight, no one really knows what’s going to happen. Thaniel has hope that it’s all going to work out for the best but he’s the only one. Worse, Mori is facing up against a very bad man who has just become Prime Minister. The Minister is spoiling for a fight against a world power and a way to replicate Mori’s ability so that Japan can become a great empire.

I was on tenterhooks for most of the book. I just had to know how things would end up in the end. The Lost Future of Pepperharrow was beautifully plotted, with twists and turns that seemed so impossible I couldn’t imagine any way out for the fantastically drawn characters. This book was definitely worth the wait.

The Desert Between Us, by Phyllis Barber

Much like tumbleweeds, the main characters of Phyllis Barber’s The Desert Between Us have fetched up in St. Thomas because that’s where their lives have blown them. Geoffrey Scott ended up there after leaving his civilian post with the U.S Army; his new plan involves mining salt. Sophia Hughes ended up there because her Mormon husband brought her; he’s following instructions from Brigham Young. St. Thomas is a hardscrabble settlement with not enough water, too many mosquitos, and too much heat but it’s the only place for miles around.

The Desert Between Us is partly inspired by historic events. First, St. Thomas really was a Mormon settlement before the land got reapportioned to the new state of Nevada. Second, the U.S. Camel Corps really existed before being disbanded in 1866. The inspiration is, sadly, minimally used in the novel. It’s really just an excuse to put a cowboy on a camel and have him meet up with a Mormon man’s third wife, who is wrestling with her commitment to being a plural wife.

Even though Geoffrey Scott was riding around Arizona and Utah Territory with a camel and has a relatively interesting backstory, I was much more interested in Sophia. Sophia is a true believer. She believed in her new religion so much that she gave up everything in England to cross an ocean and a continent to join the Mormons in Utah. After her first husband leaves her in Salt Lake, she marries a man with two wives she’s only known for a few weeks. See how much of a true believer she is? But when her marriage takes her to St. Thomas where nothing green grows, with a husband with a short temper, she begins to wonder if what she’s really doing is really what god wants…or if the men who claim to speak for god don’t actually know what they’re doing.

To continue the tumbleweed metaphor, events push Geoffrey Scott (he insists on both names) and Sophia together), where they become entangled, before pushing them apart again. We spend a lot of time these characters’ heads, in lieu of plot. Readers looking for meditative novels about characters doubting their life choices will enjoy this atmospheric novel. Readers who want more action and decisive characters might want to pass on this one.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss for review consideration.

Mrs. Mohr Goes Missing, by Maryla Szymiczkowa

After reading two weighty books on the experiences of women in Korea and Japan, I desperately needed something that was more like my usual fare. Thankfully, my hold on Mrs. Mohr Goes Missing, by Maryla Szymiczkowa*, came in. This novel—perfectly and fluidly translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones—whisked me away to Kraków in 1893. Mrs. Zofia Turbotyńska is a status conscious upper class woman who busies herself with organizing charities and cultivating relationships with the city’s aristocracy. I should have been annoyed at Zofia’s social climbing, but I couldn’t. I loved watching her solve a series of crimes that no one else could and wake up to the knowledge that there’s more to life than trying to reach the top of the social heap.

One quick note: If you’re not familiar with the Polish language, I recommend watching a quick video on Polish pronunciation like this one. It really helped me get through all the Polish names because I don’t know what to do with all those consonant clusters.

As the book opens, Zofia accompanies her much put-upon cook to Helcel House, a home for the elderly run by nuns. The cook is there to visit a relative. Zofia is there to trade on her acquaintance with Sister Alojza to get free prizes for a raffle for scrofulous children. Zofia finds Helcel in turmoil, which Zofia immediately starts to quell. Mrs. Mohr, one of the wealthy inhabitants of Helcel, has gone missing—which is strange because Mrs. Mohr has been bedridden for most of the time she’s been at Helcel. Mrs. Mohr is later found dead in the attic, with bright pink cheeks that belie the coroner’s finding of hypothermia. Zofia’s insistence on an investigation is immediately dismissed by the detective in charge of the case. Everyone is satisfied with how quickly things were wrapped up, but then another resident is found dead and yet another goes missing.

Mrs. Mohr Goes Missing is not exactly a fair-play detective story. Zofia sometimes has sudden epiphanies that are only explained later, but I wasn’t bothered for three reasons. First, I was having such a good time in the Kraków of 1893, a time and place I’ve never visited in fiction before. This novel beautifully captures the lost world of Austro-Hungarian Poland, with its elaborate social rituals and more aristocracy than Burke’s Peerage. I soaked up all the historical details that are judiciously sprinkled through the book. Second, Zofia always explains her epiphanies. These epiphanies are usually the result of Zofia’s powers of observation and her ability to piece together motives from the backstories she winkles out of people.

The third reason I didn’t mind Zofia’s sudden-idea-then-explain-later improvised process was the way this book is written. The prose is full of witty little sentences that would take the mickey out of Zofia if she could hear them. I love the narrative voice of this novel. Here’s an example from the beginning of chapter VIII of the kindle edition:

On Saturday, just before noon, a green hat with a wide brim and a peacock feather secured by a gold-plated brooch cautiously emerged from the gateway of a house on St. John’s Street. First the hat hesitated, as if wondering if it was going to rain—inevitably changing the streets of Cracow into muddy channels with streams of dirty water racing down them—and finally set off ahead. It passed the stone peacock adorning the facade of the house, then crossed the little bridge between the Piarist Monastery and the Czartoryski Palace, continually under repair. At St. Florian’s Gate it turned right, and narrowly dodged a fast-moving carriage. The peacock feather quivered angrily, then headed in a straight line toward the towers of St. Mary’s Basilica. It passed the house where, as all of Cracow knew, for years on end Mrs. Matejko had been having terrible rows with her famous artist husband, and a little farther on the house where Mrs. Dutkiewicz had not had any rows with her husband for the past two years, since he had been laid to rest in Rakowicki Cemetery. Past the junction with St. Thomas’s Street, at house number ten, the hat abruptly stopped and tilted.

This description of Zofia walking through the city through the perspective of her hat delighted me so much that I couldn’t get the grin off my face for pages.

Mrs. Mohr Goes Missing is a highly original historical mystery, and Zofia steals the show. She’s such a great character! I loved the setting and the way that the authors brought it back to full-color life. I look forward to more mysteries featuring the irrepressible Mrs. Zofia Turbotyńska.

Warsaw in the 1890s (Image via Monovisions)

* Maryla Szymiczkowa is the pseudonym for Jacek Dehnel and Piotr Tarczyński.

The Unsuitable, by Molly Pohlig

Trigger warning for self-harm.

Irene Wince never really had a chance at a normal life. Her father loathes her. Injuries she’s had since she was an infant still pain her. Oh, and her mother—who died in a terrible accident after giving birth to Irene—haunts Irene. Irene hears her mother’s voice everywhere she goes…except when she hurts herself. Molly Pohlig’s The Unsuitable is a disturbing portrait of a tormented young woman. This book is one of the most unsettling things I’ve ever read.

The first chapters of The Unsuitable led me to believe that this was a story of a neglected Victorian girl, who just needs a chance to metaphorically spread her wings. Even when Irene and her mother started to have dialogues in Irene’s head, I hoped that The Unsuitable would turn out alright for Irene. Instead, even chapter either reveals more of Irene’s mental disorders or introduces new complications to her life. Her father has been trying to marry her off for years, so that he can get her out of the house. The potential suitors have gotten less and less attractive. Now, even the old, unhealthy, bald men are turning her down. Irene doesn’t mind. She is as unimpressed with them as they are with her.

When her father brings the very last possible suitor, there are glimmers that Mr. Wince has found someone who might actually be a good match for Irene. Jacob is a sweet, understanding man…who happens to be silver. Yep, he’s silver. At this point, I really thought that the book would have a happy ending. At the risk of ruining the novel, Irene’s relationship (for lack of a better word) with her mother grows ever more destructive. The ghost of her mother or her own mental illness push and pull at Irene until she doesn’t know what to do. She goes back and forth between wanting to go her own way and wanting to please her mother.

The Unsuitable took me down a road that I didn’t really want to visit. It kept getting darker and darker. I think I only finished the book because I hoped everything would turn out all right. Instead, I got an unsettling trip inside the mind of a young woman who never had a chance to be normal. Because of that, I’m not sure who I can recommend this to, especially since it contains so much that could trigger people who self-harm.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.

These Ghosts are Family, by Maisy Card

The Paisley family has problems with its fathers. And its mothers. The children have a few problems, too. Freud might argue with me, but I trace the problems of the Paisleys of Maisy Card’s These Ghosts are Family to the fathers. The first family story contains the revelation that Abel Paisley stole a friend’s identity and ran away from his first family. In his dotage, Abel has gathered his three daughters to tell them the truth. From there, we’re off and running through two hundred years of the family’s history, from colonial Jamaica to contemporary New York.

These Ghosts are Family is a novel formatted in link short stories that travel back and forth in time. Thankfully, there’s a family tree at the beginning of the book. I bookmarked it so that I could flip back to it when a new relative was introduced. The various family members wrestle with feelings of resentment against missing relatives; the missing relatives feel a lot of guilt for having absconded. This book doesn’t argue that parents are always necessary. The parents who stay put are often awful, from the rapacious plantation owner to the drug addicted mother. Instead, I feel that These Ghosts are Family is telling one long story (in parts) of the ways that we influence each other—mostly for the worse.

What interested me most about These Ghosts are Family—apart from the dysfunctional family dynamics—was how it revealed the history of Jamaica. It makes sense. The Jamaica we know is, at least in part, the product of dysfunctional relationship with a paternal colonizer (England). The early stories about Abel and his wife show how colorism creates artificial social boundaries and expectations. Several of the stories reflect how Jamaicans and other people from the Caribbean leave the islands, seeking good pay, only to find that they are expected to do hard, degrading jobs for little money. The stories set furthest back in time are particularly hard to read because they deal with the horrors of chattel slavery. It was fascinating to see how the Paisleys were affected by history and family.

These Ghosts are Family is brilliantly written. I really liked that each story felt distinct and necessary to the overall narrative at the same time. There are no wasted words in These Ghosts are Family. I also liked that the characters are completely believable—tricky considering how much psychology there is in this book. This book will definitely be a hit with readers who like stories about dysfunctional families.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.

Conjure Women, by Afia Atakora

Trigger warning for rape.

There can’t be many things more frustrating than people who can’t or won’t take help. When someone as clever and educated as Rue, the protagonist of Afia Atakora’s novel, Conjure Women, tries to help her community of freed people in the post-Civil War South, they fear her. Worse, when a preacher comes with a new belief system, Rue becomes a monster to people she’s healed and helped birth. They stop listening to her and refuse her cures, much to her annoyance. But, to complicate things, we see Rue make some high-handed mistakes alongside her good deeds. This is a novel that keeps us on our toes because we have to wait for the very end to make up our minds about Rue.

The village where Rue lives is a strange one. They are isolated from any neighboring communities. After freedom came, they stayed on the plantation where they worked—the white “masters” had apparently died or run off. Rue, as the only one who has any medical knowledge and who can curse or bless as well as her legendary mother, is a de facto leader of the unnamed village. But there are hints that their peaceful isolation is coming to an end. First, a child is born with unnerving black eyes, white skin, and a complete caul. Next, Bruh Abel appears with all the fire of a preacher determined to save every single soul he meets. Lastly, there are rumors of white men wearing white hoods doing terrible things to any Black person they catch. Rue is caught in the middle of this. Her self-appointed duty to these people, who she grew up with when they were still enslaved, won’t let her walk away.

The frustration that Rue feels when her people start to turn their backs on her—she refuses to be baptized—is matched by our knowledge that Rue is making mistakes. For me, Conjure Women turned into a story about the pitfalls of being the person who thinks they know is best, but is wrong. She believes she’s doing the right thing. We know she’s not. The novel moves back and forth in time, showing us a parade of people who think they know best. Rue’s former “owners” thought they knew best for the people they enslaved. (The white’s attitudes to their slaves are horrifically illustrated by a minstrel show.) Bruh Abel thinks he knows best, but prayer is no cure when a virulent disease sweeps through the village. Both the malevolent and the well-intentioned people who know better in Conjure Women had me wondering what I argue is best for other people*.

I spent so much time reserving judgment while I read Conjure Women that I’m having a hard time deciding if I liked it or not—at least until she started letting go of things she’d held on to so tightly for years. I liked Rue’s humanity and her depth of knowledge about plants. I loved the way she took no crap from anyone. On the other, this book meanders and takes a long time to get rolling, before ending abruptly. I also didn’t care for any of the other characters, which made it hard to get into the book. But then, I also liked its originality. It’s unlike any other novel about slavery I’ve ever read. But then I wished we had learned more about Rue’s root work…On and on, back and forth. I’m really not sure what to conclude about this novel.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.

* But not vaccines. Vaccinate yourselves, people. Oh, and health care is a right. Capitalism is evil. And James Joyce was a literary con artist. Fight me.

Beloved, by Toni Morrison

It’s strangely fitting to have read Beloved, Toni Morrison’s stunning novel, in the week after controversy blew up around American Dirt. Writers and readers are justifiably up in arms about how historical tragedies are appropriated by authors who, to give them the benefit of the doubt, meant well. Even with years of research, these stories rarely ring true in the way that books written by own-voices authors do. Beloved is one of the most heart-wrenching books I’ve ever read because it contains so much emotional depth about questions and thoughts I don’t think would ever have occurred to someone who wasn’t a writer of color. This book packed so much of a punch that I had to take breaks. I couldn’t handle that much raw, harrowing truth all at once.

Sethe, like many characters in Beloved, has been living a hollow life since she ran for freedom with her children. Her life in slavery, the unspeakable events that led to her escape, and the terrible things that happened just after her escape have led Sethe to strip out joy, comfort, friendship, and so much more from her existence. Paul D, a man she knew at the farm where they were enslaved, lives a similarly faded life. The damage they have endured comes with so much guilt that to find any kind of happiness seems wrong. It also doesn’t help that, in Sethe’s case, that her house is haunted by the spirit of one of her children.

I had thought that Beloved would be about Sethe’s guilt over her actions when she was threatened with slavery after finding freedom. There are sections of the book that cover this, but the abuses Sethe suffers and the crime she commits serve more as touchstones for larger questions of autonomy and identity. I love the way this book is constructed for the way it circles back on itself, with every iteration revealing more about what happened. Every repetition serves to more fully illuminate the characters’ motivations and actions.

What interested me most about Beloved were the questions about autonomy that kept coming up. As enslaved people, Sethe and Paul D wrestle with the identities that had to reform once they were free. They no longer had to warp their personalities to conform to the expectations of the people who had the arrogance to try and own other human beings. That said, how do you shuck off years of psychological abuse even if, as Paul Dr reflects, some of their “masters” were relatively benign? And for Sethe, how does one inhabit the authority of a parent when one doesn’t have autonomy over one’s self? It’s no wonder that Sethe and her children are so fiercely connected and possessive of each other.

Above all, Beloved is an astoundingly well-written book. It is the kind of book that I had to periodically look up from to let the language wash over me before I continued. Every word in this book is perfectly chosen; not only do the words sound like the voices of the individual characters, but they also spoke straight to me as the book pondered its themes of ostracism, racism, autonomy, and motherhood. This is not an easy book to read. It definitely has the potential to trigger white fragility. But I feel privileged to have read it. Reading this book felt like someone had taken me aside to tell me hard truths about Black history that are always overlooked in predominately white classrooms and discourses. Beloved is a masterpiece.