When the Reckoning Comes

Harper Perennial. Aug. 2021. 256p. ISBN 9780063035041. pap. $17. HORROR
DEBUT Mira, a Black girl; Jesse, a Black boy; and Celine, a white girl, were inseparable as children, until the night Mira and Jesse went to investigate the ghosts at a long-neglected local plantation. Mira and Jesse saw things that no one would believe, and the friendship of all three was destroyed in the aftermath. Now Mira returns home, at Celine’s request, to attend her wedding, which is being held on that plantation; it has been restored to its former beauty, but it’s still haunted by the enslaved people who were tortured there. This revenge-themed horror is narrated by Mira, with interludes from a Greek chorus of enslaved people, who speak from the past and prime us for the bloody retribution about to be unleashed, giving new meaning to the idea of reparation. The engrossing novel follows Jesse and Mira as they come to terms with the immediate supernatural violence and the true horror experienced by Black Americans in the 21st century.
VERDICT Playing on the disturbing trend of celebrating happy moments on restored plantations, McQueen cranks the discomfort up a notch to create a story where readers will actively cheer on the restless spirits. Hand it to readers who like horror where systemic oppression and monsters collide, like John Fram’s The Bright Lands or Tananarive Due’s The Good House.
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