Let Us Descend

S. & S. Audio. Oct. 2023. 8:12 hrs. ISBN 9781797161518. $32.99. F
Two-time National Book Award winner Ward (Sing, Unburied, Sing) gently but compellingly narrates the audiobook of her new historical novel, which tells the moving story of Annis, an enslaved Black teenager forced to travel from South Carolina to New Orleans after being sold by her father, a white man who had enslaved her and her mother. Before they were brutally separated, Annis’s mother, Sasha, passed on ancestral wisdom, including how to fight and forage for food. During the grueling march south, Annis leans on her mother’s teachings, as well as the lessons she overheard her white half sisters receive about Dante’s Inferno. Annis, like Dante in the Underworld, relies on spirit guides throughout her hellish descent. Ward’s delicate voice and deliberate pacing highlight her exquisite prose and vivid imagery, and her measured delivery makes the novel’s descriptions of chattel slavery even more devastating. However, she evokes beauty and lightness with tributes to the strength of her characters, their willingness to help others at a high cost to themselves, and their ability to assert their dignity despite their circumstances.
VERDICT Ward’s fiercely engrossing but quietly told narrative personalizes the horrors of enslavement in the United States, making this an essential purchase for all collections.
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