Remembrance…It’s a rumor, a whisper passed in the fields and veiled behind sheets of laundry. A hidden stop on the underground road to freedom, a safe haven protected by more than secrecy…if you can make it there.

Ohio, present day. An elderly woman who is more than she seems warns against rising racism as a young woman grapples with her life.

Haiti, 1791, on the brink of revolution. When the slave Abigail is forced from her children to take her mistress to safety, she discovers New Orleans has its own powers.

1857 New Orleansa city of unrest: Following tragedy, house girl Margot is sold just before her 18th birthday and her promised freedom. Desperate, she escapes and chases a whisper…. Remembrance.

The Phoenix’s Perspective:

Originally, I wanted to read Remembrance due to the fact that is a combination of historical fiction and magical realism.  I thought that this combination had to create a wonderful story.  Remembrance delivered so much more than I imagined.

The novel follows four women throughout the course of history with storylines that eventually connect together.  I will never lie – I was not sure I could see how the four storylines would connect.  Yet, as the story progressed, I found the connections just making sense.  It never once felt forced to me.  Honestly, now having finished the novel, I cannot envision the story any other way.

Each of the women in this story have a strength within them that is great to watch unfold during the course of the novel.  Gaelle, the modern-day storyline, has been working at an elderly care facility since she moved to Ohio from Haiti after an earthquake in which she lost the majority of her family.  Gaelle is struggling to understand an interaction that occurred with one of the seniors.  During this time, Gaelle has been dealing with the fact that she will get very warm, to the point where she can warm other people when they are cold.  How she is related to the rest of the characters?  We will not know until the end.  Margot is a young slave in New Orleans who lives with her sister and her mother.  When plague, fever and disease wreak havoc in her area, she and her sister are sold to a smaller family that cares less about her wellbeing than her previous one.  As a result of that, Margot and her sister runaway in hopes of finding freedom from slavery.  Throughout this time, Margot starts to realize that there is something different about her.

Abigail is a slave in Haiti.  During the Haitian Slave Revolts, she is forced by her owners to leave the island and her own children.  Before leaving, Abigail had to endure watching her husband be burned alive for being a part of the revolution.  Due to all the sadness that comes from these situations, Abigail runs away from her owners and escapes with the help of strangers.  These strangers teach her the way of spiritual work that can enhance her special abilities.  She becomes Mother Abigail and learns the ability to warp space/time.  Using this ability, she creates Remembrance to be a safe haven for people running to freedom using the Underground Railroad.  Winter is a child that Abigail found tucked under the frozen body of her mother.  What kept her alive was her special ability, which we will find out about later in the story.  Her story is tied to Mother Abigail’s.  She has never known life outside of Remembrance, which is why she does not truly understand the plight of those that come to live there.

The stories of these strong women draw you into this novel and leave you learning so much about the horrors that slavery brought upon people.  Woods brings to life how dehumanizing and degrading slavery was.  Her portrayal of how the “slavers” treated the people under their “care” truly brought to light a detailed view of history that most of us really only think of as something sad under a banner of a bad time is history.  Taking the story from the 1700’s in Haiti all the way to present day in America, Woods discusses the lasting effects of slavery and colonialism.  I think those effects are generally lost under the banner of “slavery ended.” 

I was also happy to see a topic mentioned that I have dealt with all my life, but that usually does not get discussed.  Woods mentions this almost secretly within an interaction between Winter and another character.  Louisa seems to continually comment on how light Winter is.  As a Dominican, I have seen that fractured racism that became built into the development of our cultures.  The idea that the lighter you were the closer to white you were.  Depending on what side of that color line you were, you might feel better or worse about yourself and potentially resentful of others, even those close to you.  To this day, when a child is born in a Hispanic household, more often than not the comment of “good they have good hair” is made (or a comment about the opposite).  Most people do not realize that it comes from that color line issue, but it is something that is almost built into our core.

I am so thankful that was able to read Remembrance and will continue to recommend it to everyone who asks about a good book to read.

Would I add it to the library?

Yes!  I am so thankful that @novelknight was nice enough to gift me this book.  I already have a list of people I know who want to read it.

Genre:Historical Fiction, Magical Realism



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