Remembrance

Written by Rita Woods
Review by Hilary Daninhirsch

This unique debut effortlessly blends historical fiction and fantasy in a story about perseverance and loss, mostly set in pre-Civil War times.

In 1857, Margot, her sister, and grandmother are house slaves on a plantation in Louisiana. Grandmère is a healer, while Margot has a “supernatural” power to heal by touch. After her long-promised freedom is denied, Margot and her sister attempt to escape, though only Margot makes it out alive. She finds a secret place on the underground path to freedom called Remembrance: The inhabitants, all former slaves, have created a safe sanctuary sealed off from the world. They live in relative peace and harmony under the watchful leadership of Abigail, herself a former slave in Haiti in the late 1790s, who has her own story to tell. Then there is Winter, a long-time resident of Remembrance who has powers to wield and battles to fight. But the peace is shattered when white slave catchers begin to penetrate the boundaries, threatening them all.

In the present day, Gaelle is an aide at a nursing home in Ohio. Gaelle, who has a special power herself, develops a particular interest in one of her mysterious, elderly patients and discovers that they may have something in common.

Multiple plot lines and settings abound; protagonists converge to tell the story, 200 years apart, of strong African-American women battling for liberty against societies determined to hold them back. All the women have some sort of superpower, be it magic or a supernatural gift.

The fantasy elements serve to thread the story together, but it at times feels disjointed, and the tale can drag a bit. Still, the concept is original, and Remembrance is an impressive debut from a talented author.