Cover Image: When the Reckoning Comes

When the Reckoning Comes

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Member Reviews

Mira grew up in a small town where small minds allowed racism to flourish. She hasn't been back in years, and who could blame her. But she still thinks of Jesse, her school girl crush, and what might have been had things turned out differently. Out of the blue she gets a phone call from her childhood friend Celine, practically begging her to attend her wedding. When they were children, Celine often said they could be sisters, it didn't seem to matter to her that she was white and Mira was not, or maybe it was that the white kids didn't really accept her because she was poor. Maybe she was just using Mira all along. When Mira learns that Jesse will be attending the wedding, she reluctantly agrees to make the drive, even though Celine is getting married on the old plantation where countless slaves were tortured and killed. When they were kids they heard the rumors and ghost stories about the plantation, and may have even witnessed something otherworldly themselves. Now it's all been renovated and turned into a vacation resort where the wealthy and privileged can watch slave reenactments while they pretend there was nothing wrong with owning people. But fresh paint and new construction can't hide what lurks beneath.

This was a more subtle kind of horror, very atmospheric and dark. The pace was a little slow although there is a pervasive sense of "wrongness" before Mira even reaches her destination. More than just a ghost story it shines a light on the stark contrast in the way the haves and have nots perceive the world.

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Mira fled her small and segregated North Carolina town over a decade ago and never looked back. One day she receives an wedding invitation from a white friend she long grew apart from.  The venue is the newly renovated Woodsman plantation. Mira still holds memories from an excursion gone awry on the those old grounds that almost cost her friend Jesse his freedom.

Mira knows it's a bad idea to stay on these lands that are rumored to be occupied by the ghosts of a slave revolt, but the prospect of seeing Jesse again and seeing what could've been fuels her return. It doesn't hurt that her friend Celine is completely funding this trip. As she find herself sipping antebellum themed cocktails by the bar and watching performances by slave reenactors she can't help but notice how privileged she is compared to the other workers. She's very aware of her presence as the sole Black guest among white guests who can blissfully overlook the memories this place holds. 

Haunting visions of cruel and horrifying acts blend with present day reality and flashbacks of past memories Mira tries is trying to grapple with. There's the shame she felt growing up in a poor Black neighborhood in the part of town that white folks dare not visit. Memories of a mother who saw herself as better than the other Black people held white perception in high regard while drilling that "Good Negro" mindset into Mira. 

This novel was not what I expected. Going in I just expected the white people to get their comeuppance courtesy of the ghosts that still haunt the land. Which this does deliver on to an extent. But this is also a story about a woman confronting her own anti-Blackness. It's a novel that tackles revisionist history in the US; a reminder to never forget the past and brush aside the true horrors of slavery in all it's gory details. Sometimes it's downplayed just how barbaric it was and how Black people never get justice. Even the ending is quite bittersweet. 

Not too long ago I used to see the word slavery attached to a story and run in the opposite direction. And like Mira I had to stop disregarding the past because it made me feel uncomfortable. While we can't go back in time and give those people the justice they deserved we can recover what we can of their stories and respect the sacrifices they made to survive.

LaTanya McQueen is a skilled writer. I'm not someone who usually has a running picture going throughout my head while reading but there were many times throughout the text I could clearly picture the plantain grounds. And I think reading the words on page while listening to the audio helped me become fully immersed into this story. The interstitial passages in this story were some of the most haunting of all. And the most horrific parts of this story come from the memories of long erased history.  This was a truly haunting tale that took an unexpected turn for me.

I received an arc from Harper Perennial in exchange for an honest review.
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For fans of American Horror Story this terrifying novel confronts America's racist history and the long legacy of slavery head on. 2.5/5 Readalike: When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole.
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I have decided to put down this novel. 
When thinking about what did not work for me there are a couple points to bring up. 

I went into this novel thinking it would be gothic Southern Fiction. I did not feel like that was the case. The story was very slow to start and the overall atmosphere was not gothic IMO.

The second reason was I felt a lot of anger. Don’t get me wrong. I am not an own voices author or reader.  I don’t know that overall this book was a good choice for me. 

The writing was well done, however I will not recommend this novel.
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Well written novel grappling with friendship, race, history, and family guilt.  I felt the characters could have been better developed - off to a good start with the history of three friends, but their current day lives were not fleshed out and ther personalities a bit flat.  Very worth reading and discussing.
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This is one of the few books I’ve read this year that I absolutely could not put down! There’s everything here - a mysterious backstory that is slowly revealed, characters who experienced trauma in the past and are now thrown together again after years apart, an old nightmare re-emerging, and the uber-spooky setting of an old South plantation soaked in the blood of enslaved people. 

McQueen is skilled at building tension by introducing just enough information to keep you turning pages. Her storytelling is electric and spine-tingling, with excellent character development and vivid descriptions of people, things, and places. Her use of the shameful past of the torture of enslaved people is horrifying enough, but the concept she introduces here about the spirits of those same people is terrifying. 

Fans of atmospheric horror will swallow this one whole.

Highly recommended.
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Overall, it is an interesting premise and I enjoyed the author's writing style. I am definitely here for own voices gothic-style stories and we need more of them. 

The one thing that I will say is it feels like the title is misleading. There is a hint of what could happen but it never fully does which is disappointing. Odd to give the book that title with no follow-through.

** I received a Review Copy of this book via NetGalley **
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This is a well written own voices horror story  that explored topics of race and privilege. I really appreciated the social commentary, which was woven quite seamlessly into the narrative. The horror in this book were fairly quiet and understated. In some ways, this read more like a suspense novel. 

I would recommend this one to readers who enjoy character driven stories that tackle heavy and important themes through fiction. 

Disclaimer I received a copy of this book from the publisher.
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This story follows Mira, who returns to her small town for the wedding of a friend she has long since lost touch with. Mira also reunites with Jesse, who was her friend and love-interest in high school.

The wedding is to take place on the Woodsman plantation, which is rumored to be haunted by the ghosts of slaves who died there. When Mira and Jesse were younger, they experienced something there which Mira has long suppressed. 

Based on the premise, I was very excited to read this story. There is a national conversation and "reckoning" with the brutal realities of history happening in the US at the moment, and this story seems to fit into that conversation. While it does address many of these issues in the story--the horrors inflicted on slaves by their owners, White privilege, the white-washing of history--the story itself fell a little flat for me. 

I wanted more of a reckoning, which never really happens. Through "interstitial" chapters we hear the voices of the slaves, and Mira experiences some of their stories as a way of "acknowledging" their reality. I wanted to hear more from these lost slaves--to learn their names and hear more of their stories. There was very little real horror, vengeance, or reckoning. The ending felt rushed and confusing.
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Overall, the book unfortunately didn’t deliver on the title or the premise. There wasn’t really a reckoning, just the threat of one that brought Mira back to the plantation to warn the belligerent wedding guests, who evacuated before anything could happen. The journey her ancestor takes her on on the mostly empty plantation is a departure from the build up of her conversation with Jesse about the reckoning he predicts is coming for the wedding guests (who are mostly descendants of the town's former slave owners) based on his research of the town.

All in all, there was a lot of potential, and there were moments of strong writing, but it felt like the story tried to do too much and went in an underwhelming direction in the end. I wanted to see this reckoning! The pacing was slow for the first half. McQueen did a lot of telling and not showing, I would have liked to have seen more events in scene. The horror and gore come from the traumatic flashbacks Mira experiences and not from a reckoning for those horrors, which felt like a misstep and letdown. Especially after Mira experienced all manner of micro aggressions and witnessed the white wedding guests disrespecting the memories of the slaves and playing disgusting drunken role plays.

In the end, the ghosts of the tormented slaves only came for two people, and the reader only witnessed one of the deaths. Celine’s murder (not by ghosts) fell flat. Much of the build up, flashbacks and Mira’s motivation for coming to the wedding was for the memory of their friendship, and Celine disappeared early on and was never seen again. The truth of her murder was merely recounted to Mira. I would like to read more from McQueen, but I wouldn’t necessarily classify this as horror. Yes, history is absolutely horror, but I wanted to see those elements brought to the present in the form of, well, a reckoning.
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Mira who moved away from the town she grew up in has been invited back to attend a wedding of a childhood friend, Celine. The wedding is being held at a plantation that Mira and her friend Jesse snuck into when they were young.  Mira was scared away by a face in a window and Jesse was blamed for a murder near the property.  

The ghosts of the plantation are restless.  They want to show Mira the horrors that they were inflicted upon them.  How her ancestors lived and died.  

This book is marketed as horror and it is but not just for the ghosts.  My heart broke from the treatment inflicted upon those who were enslaved.  I’m so very appreciative of the publisher for letting me read this book.  It will stay with me for a long time.
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SPOILERS AHEAD! DO NOT READ IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW!

Growing up in a segregated Southern town in the shadows of a long rumored haunted plantation; Mira, Jesse and Celine were inseparable. That is until one day when sneaking onto the plantation grounds results in a dead body being found, Jesse accused of murder and Mira seeing something that for years she just can't explain. In the aftermath of this event the three go their separate ways, but reunite years later at Celine's wedding which is taking place at the newly renovated plantation where they must come to terms with their connection the past as well as their connection to each other. 

The premise of this book is initially what drew me in. I was very interested in hearing what author LaTanya McQueen had to say about how our culture has turned painful moments and locations in black history into tourist attractions and wedding destinations (seriously, how someone can overlook the horrors that happened on plantations and decide its a good place to get married, is something I will never be able to understand nor justify). I was also curious as to how McQueen was going to incorporate the supernatural element of having the plantation be haunted. 

However, I will be honest in saying that the execution fell a bit flat for me. McQueen is a fabulous writer. I was especially moved by the interstitial chapters of this book where the history of the Woodsmans planation is explained. In these sections, McQueen's writing is exquisite and enthralling, and at some moments poetic. But the rest of the book felt like it was missing something. It never really figured out what it wanted to be, too many things were happening that there wasn't a clear picture of what I was supposed to take away from this story. 

I especially was dissatisfied with the last sixty pages; when Jesse and Mira return to the plantation to warn the wedding guests that the ghosts of the slaves who were killed during an uprising were coming back to murder them all. That scenario really would've been an excellent climax, raising the stakes for our characters and living up to the premise's promise of a haunted plantation. However, I am not even sure I can describe properly what ends up happening. From my understanding, Mira experiences visions of moments in the plantations history, which are supposed to give her a better understanding of what actually happened there. Yet, the ghosts never go after any of the wedding guests, in fact, none of the other wedding guests are even present. It feels like Mira should've gone through these moments earlier in her stay at that plantation. Then she would've understood the severity of them continuing to stay on the grounds. I just found it all a bit confusing, and to include the whole situation with Celine skipping on the wedding and being found dead, just really felt like a a side story that wasn't necessary. 

Even with that said, I would still recommend this book to readers. McQueen is a great writer, the book was engaging and the story is quite original. It has the similar creepy vibes as "Get Out" and McQueen does an excellent job of creating that eerie atmosphere. McQueen's voice is strong and unique and I will for sure read her future works. I want to thank Harper Perennial and NetGalley for the advanced copy!
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I adore this perfect book.  I don’t want to spoil anything but it’s very reminiscent of Get Out.  Absolute masterpiece, I highly recommend this book.
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