Monday, January 1, 2024

REVIEW: Let Us Descend by Jesmyn Ward



Beautifully written and unrelenting. I have no idea how Jesmyn Ward inhabited the headspace of Annis for as long as she must have in order to write this novel; it must have been excruciating at times. I found that I could only read a few chapters at a time before my heart needed a break because the story of Annis, her mother, and grandmother, as well as the women she shared space with was filled with deep love, horror, and devastation. It was only at the end that there was a sense of hope and hints of happier days to come. 

This will be a hard read for anyone who picks it up and I'm still suggesting it to anyone who will listen. Poetic, heart wrenching, beautiful, and wise--I hope this novel wins all the prizes. 



OPRAH’S BOOK CLUB PICK • Instant New York Times Bestseller • From Jesmyn Ward—the two-time National Book Award winner, youngest winner of the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction, and MacArthur Fellow—comes a haunting masterpiece, sure to be an instant classic, about an enslaved girl in the years before the Civil War.

“‘Let us descend,’ the poet now began, ‘and enter this blind world.’” —
Inferno, Dante Alighieri
Let Us Descend is a reimagining of American slavery, as beautifully rendered as it is heart-wrenching. Searching, harrowing, replete with transcendent love, the novel is a journey from the rice fields of the Carolinas to the slave markets of New Orleans and into the fearsome heart of a Louisiana sugar plantation.
Annis, sold south by the white enslaver who fathered her, is the reader’s guide through this hellscape. As she struggles through the miles-long march, Annis turns inward, seeking comfort from memories of her mother and stories of her African warrior grandmother. Throughout, she opens herself to a world beyond this world, one teeming with spirits: of earth and water, of myth and history; spirits who nurture and give, and those who manipulate and take. While Ward leads readers through the descent, this, her fourth novel, is ultimately a story of rebirth and reclamation.
From one of the most singularly brilliant and beloved writers of her generation, this miracle of a novel inscribes Black American grief and joy into the very land—the rich but unforgiving forests, swamps, and rivers of the American South. 
Let Us Descend is Jesmyn Ward’s most magnificent novel yet, a masterwork for the ages.

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