Welcome Back, Booklovers! I was provided an arc courtesy of Harper Perennial and Harper Audio for an honest review. This story touches on the very relevant discussion of holding weddings at plantations and does so in less than 300 pages
Mira fled her small and segregated North Carolina town over a decade ago and never looked back. One day she receives an wedding invitation from a white friend she long grew apart from. The venue is the newly renovated Woodsman plantation. Mira still holds memories from an excursion gone awry on the those old grounds that almost cost her friend Jesse his freedom.
Mira knows it's a bad idea to stay on these lands that are rumored to be occupied by the ghosts of a slave revolt, but the prospect of seeing Jesse again and seeing what could've been fuels her return. It doesn't hurt that her friend Celine is completely funding this trip. As she find herself sipping antebellum themed cocktails by the bar and watching performances by slave reenactors she can't help but notice how privileged she is compared to the other workers. She's very aware of her presence as the sole Black guest among white guests who can blissfully overlook the memories this place holds.
Haunting visions of cruel and horrifying acts blend with present day reality and flashbacks of past memories Mira tries is trying to grapple with. There's the shame she felt growing up in a poor Black neighborhood in the part of town that white folks dare not visit. Memories of a mother who saw herself as better than the other Black people held white perception in high regard while drilling that "Good Negro" mindset into Mira.
This novel was not what I expected. Going in I just expected the white people to get their comeuppance courtesy of the ghosts that still haunt the land. Which this does deliver on to an extent. But this is also a story about a woman confronting her own anti-Blackness. It's a novel that tackles revisionist history in the US; a reminder to never forget the past and brush aside the true horrors of slavery in all it's gory details. Sometimes it's downplayed just how barbaric it was and how Black people never get justice. Even the ending is quite bittersweet.
Not too long ago I used to see the word slavery attached to a story and run in the opposite direction. And like Mira I had to stop disregarding the past because it made me feel uncomfortable. While we can't go back in time and give those people the justice they deserved we can recover what we can of their stories and respect the sacrifices they made to survive.
While this story touched on many modern issues that stem from slavery another standout was Mira's relationship with Jesse. Mira's mother is so anti-Black she despises Jesse even when he's just a child for being a Black boy who will grow into a Black man. Because a Black man hurt her she hates them and believes one will end up hurting her daughter. And we don't address that mindset enough though people use it to justify their interracial relationships while not holding white people hurting them in the past in the same regard.
LaTanya McQueen is a skilled writer. I'm not someone who usually has a running picture going throughout my head while reading but there were many times throughout the text I could clearly picture the plantain grounds. And I think reading the words on page while listening to the audio helped me become fully immersed into this story. The interstitial passages in this story were some of the most haunting of all. And the most horrific parts of this story come from the memories of long erased history.