Cover Image: River Mumma

River Mumma

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Member Reviews

This book was truly captivating and with every single star! A Jamaican river deity tasks 20something year old with a quest to return a stolen object or the world will face serious consequences!

There so much about this book I loved and not enough time to put it in worlds without spoiling it in this review.

Thank you Net Galley for this arc River Mumma by Zalika Reid-Benta. #RiverMumma #NetGalley

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LOVE LOVE LOVE FOREVER LOVE god this story was AMAZING. SO well told.
ten out of ten, no notes. Loved it, can't say that enough. Great world building.

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It's mid April. I downloaded this complimentary e-arc from Erewhon and NetGalley in early Feb. I'm still in the first 20%. It's so boring and clunky to read, I'm reluctant to choose it over others. It's such a great premise, but the writing is very hard to get through. Not a DNF yet...but who knows when I'll finish.

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I’m not familiar with Caribbean folklore, and I loved this contemporary novel deeply steeped in the rhythm and the culture of the diaspora in Toronto. The voice and the writing really is fizzy, as the reviewer T.L. Huchu described it.
The story is about three young people (I guess I only say this because I’m old, lol) who consider themselves work friends and not much more. Alicia’s ancestor’s encounter with the uncanny leads to River Mumma finding Alicia and requiring her help in locating her golden comb. Or else.
Alicia, who is well-schooled in the folklore of Jamaica because of her mother and grandmother, knows what “or else” will mean for the world. River Mumma will make the rivers dry up if Alicia can’t find the comb.
Thus begins a quest that pulls in Alicia’s work friends, Heaven and Mars, and as all the good quests in the world’s stories, they grow closer, learn more about each other and themselves, and fight monsters all at the same time.
Highly recommended if you love #ownvoices magical realism and urban fantasy.

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This one was ok, but overall not for me. I just don't think there were enough pages to move the plot along. Will still read from this author in the future.

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This book was so good! It's full of Jamaican patois and folklore. With some exposure to the culture, I found the patois was easy enough to follow but had to look up some of the idioms and the folklore was all new (but sufficiently explained in the book). If you don't have any experience with the culture, you may find yourself looking up some of the words but I think most of it was understandable context-wise if you don't want to take yourself out of the story. This was an adventure novel featuring strong POC women and a lot of folklore characters but set in the freezing Toronto winter. I loved the juxtaposition of the northern winter against the Jamaican culture, and the navigation of the dual cultural background of our MC, Alice. If you love books that highlight folklore from different cultures and/or adventure novels featuring strong POC women, this is a wonderful choice that I highly recommend.

A huge thank you to the author and the publisher for providing an e-ARC via Netgalley. This does not affect my opinion regarding the book.

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Stuck in the throes of millennial ennui, Alicia is over educated and working a dead-end job. On a freezing Toronto night, it takes all her strength to attend a co-worker's party. While other people poke at their phones and drink- she gets a tarot reading from a new friend. The Tower is pulled, followed by the Wheel of Fortune. If you know, you know. Nothing is the same after an unseen presence stalks her home that night. Follow Alicia as she navigates a world where the mundane collides with the stuff of Jamaican legend. Fast paced and clocking in at around 300 pages, this might be a good choice for breaking out of a reading slump. For fans of magical realism and folklore.

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Loved this book about a Jamaican deity and how it intertwined with seer who would journey to the past. I loved the scenery and the overall quest that the three friends had to go on to retrieve this golden comb. Great storytelling! I'd highly recommend this book!

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.

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Chosen by a Jamaican deity to retrieve a stolen object, Alicia is sent on a thrilling quest through the streets of Toronto.
(I live in the GTA so books set in Toronto are always fun for me!)
Part thrilling quest, part coming of age story, and part homage to culture and home, River Mumma was a beautiful read.

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Loved the atmosphere of the book as well as the characters. It was just the pacing and the plot that left me a little underwhelmed.

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River Mumma is the debut novel of Canadian author Zalika Reid-Benta. The novel is a modern fantasy novel dealing with Jamaican folklore, as our protagonist Alicia is given a task by River Mumma, a Jamaican deity/spirit/mermaid with a connection to rivers and waterways, to find and return her magical comb before a deadline....and features Alicia and two of her friends, Heaven and Mars, searching around Toronto while being pursued by duppies and monstrous beings out of Jamaican folklore. It's a short novel, but one that is pretty packed and feels longer than it is.

And it's a novel that is really really enjoyable. Alicia is a really relatable and understandable protagonist - working in menial work after her masters and professional degrees failed to get her a job like some of her (probably White) classmates, struggling with socializing with friends and feeling lost, etc. And so her journey is really easy to care for as she gets swept up along with her two friends, who are also pretty well done. And the characters are all, even in the seriousness of it, pretty quirky and amusing and genre savvy and nerdy, even if the story never ever verges into comedy. It's a well rounded really enjoyable novel with some solid themes.

Disclaimer: This reviewer is a White Ashkenazi Jewish American, and as such my cultural knowledge of the culture that forms the backbone of this book is slim to none. So take this review for what it's worth (and you may want to see what people with more connections to this culture think in their own reviews).

Plot Summary:
Alicia only came to her work friend/co-worker Heaven's holiday party because Heaven lived close and it would've felt awkward if she didn't go to some holiday party. Alicia doesn't socialize well and has felt rather lost since her graduate studies and degrees failed to get her any real job...and left her stuck in a retail shift. So she planned to go to the party for like ten minutes and bounce...only to get drawn to another woman, Oni, who gives her a card reading suggesting she's about to undergo a big change from destiny. And soon thereafter, after she leaves the party, Alicia finds herself facing supernatural occurrences and being drawn into a body of water by River Mumma herself.

And to Alicia's shock, River Mumma shows her a vision of her ancestors' connection to River Mumma and gives her a task: find River Mumma's comb and return it to her within a day. The consequences of failing this task River Mumma warns could be dire...and the fate of all the waterways may depend upon it.

But when Alicia wakes up in her bed the next day, she thinks she only dreamt this vision....until she begins receiving new visions on the bus and gets attacked by a being right out of Jamaican folklore along with her friends Heaven and Mars. Soon it becomes clear that the River Mumma's task was real and that if the three of them don't figure out a way to find the comb and return it, the results will be utter disaster. But how can Alicia, a young woman who has no path in life and knows little about her ancestors, accomplish such a task?

This book stars as its protagonist Alicia, who is an increasingly relatable protagonist these days. Alicia went to college, graduated with what seemed like a prestigious degree in English...and found, unlike many of her colleagues, no job waiting for her. Now she's stuck living at home (fine) and working a boring retail job (ugh) with seemingly no hope of finding anything better or a greater direction in life (the worst). Alicia is a lost soul through no fault of her own, and while she has a few work friends - especially Heaven, the rich girl who's studied Jamaican and other folklore and is also stuck in retail, and Mars, the boy she feels a strange but not quite romantic connection with, she doesn't really have a life outside of work as she doesn't really socialize well with others.

So when the River Mumma appears, shows her visions that connect her to her ancestors, and demands that Alicia find and return River Mumma's missing magical comb within 24 hours or the world will suffer consequences, Alicia is even further lost. Why her? And so a large part of this story, as Alicia, Heaven, and Mars go from place to place to try and find the comb, is Alicia coming to terms through her visions and experiences with her own place in her Jamaica heritage and what that heritage means, and how accepting it isn't a "debt", but rather a continuing on of a recognizable legacy. The side characters have their own minor journeys in a similar way (Heaven has to realize her academic knowledge of Jamaica culture and her pride in it is preventing her from listening to those who know and belong in it and Mars has to realize that he's connected as well as Alicia, even as he struggles with money and supporting his family) but really that's the core of this story.

And this book tells this story in a really strong way that's mixed with both drama and comedic moments. The quest that we see here features beings of Jamaican folklore pursuing our heroes, with duppies of various types coming out to cause grave danger to Toronto. We also have serious themes about appropriation, wealth and privilege, and diaspora life mixed in as well. And yet our main trio are kind of geeky and self-aware (and very Toronto/Canadian) in ways that feel entirely natural and often result in some really amusing moments among it all, aided by a plot that occasionally turns to the absurd (an unnamed Toronto celebrity is a major part of the last act and just envisioning who I think it was meant to be made me crack up). It's just a really nice package that keeps this story highly readable and entertaining even as it deals with serious things.

In short, River Mumma is an excellent short novel that should absolutely be on award radars. Really good.

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River Mumma is a tale based around Jamaican folklore, following 26 year old Alicia as she quests to find a golden comb for a certain diety. Reid-Benta promises spirits, a rich ancestral history, the writing of a wrong, navigating the paralyzing fear of failure, and how powerful friendship can really be.

It’s a very fast paced read, it launches into the nitty gritty very early, and it stays at a consistent pace up until the last page, and I was enamored with every word. The fear our cast experienced was palpable, the descriptions of where Alicia wandered to were layered and beautiful, and watching them navigate their friendship was realistic and sweet.

4.5 stars, easily!


Thank you to the publishers, Reid-Benta, and NetGalley for an e-arc in exchange for an honest review.

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I just finished River Mumma by Zalika Reid-Benta and here are my thoughts.

Alicia has finished grad school and she thought her life would be set. Problem is she hasn’t found a job other than a minimum wage job anyone can do. She still lives at home and life is not what she wants it to be.

On the way home one night, River Mumma appears to her, the Jamaican water deity and she is angry. She wants her comb back and she has given Alicia 24 hours to find it or she leaves with all the rivers.

With the help of 2 of her work friends she must use the visions she has been gifted with and avoid the duppies and the fate of the world rests on her shoulders.

It's pretty well paced and I am a real sucker for magical realism. I didn’t know much about Jamaican folklore until now as this book sent me down a rabbit hole of research. I found the flow was a little awkward in places but dang, I was highly entertained with this book. Alicia and her friends are being chased by duppies, spirits now reaping havoc around the city.

I thought it was well written and was a solid read.

If you love folklore and magical realism this book would be great for you. I personally would have liked more lore and that atmosphere of storytelling you usually get from these kinds of books but it is worth the read.

4 stars

Thank you to @netgalley and @kensingtonbooks for my gifted copy

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Sometimes we sit and wonder - what could I read during Black History Month to learn something outside my bubble? Search no longer, my young padawan because I have something for you! What about the modern story about three new adults who got a task from a Jamaican deity to retrieve a comb that was stolen to prevent wrath and catastrophe? If that one sentence doesn't sell this book, I don't know what will. Zalika Reid-Benta presented modern-day Toronto with protagonists who did not skip their lesson on Gen Z slang for effective communication. With fast-paced action and some internal work through out-of-body traveling through past and present, the author teaches us about Jamaican folklore and beliefs. I loved how it stands strong in contrast to pop culture references, which strongly set our trio as relatable.
My three-star rating comes with my personal preference of how the story was presented to me. I had trouble understanding placing at times. Some parts seemed clunky to me and dragged a bit. The run and overcome sequences were no interest of mine, because, as much as I understand why there were, I felt lost.
Either way, if you are a person who loves to learn new things about cultures and don't shy away from folklore, this book will bring you joy, the same way it did to me.

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The author's storytelling prowess shines through, weaving a narrative that blends the mystical with the tangible. From the enigmatic River Mumma herself to the determined protagonist navigating the challenges of her world, every character feels authentic and compelling.

While the pacing occasionally slows, particularly in the middle chapters, the story is engaging and memorable.

River Mumma proves that even if you know nothing about a culture, a good storyteller can help you connect and leave an impact long after reading.

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Urban quest novel with enough action to satisfy plot driven readers, and enough heart to satisfy character driven readers. Set in modern-day Toronto, but full of Jamaican history and culture. The story follows a group of young adults trying to locate lost treasure. Along the way, they meet both helpful and harmful creatures straight from Jamaican folklore. Though the story is most definitely of the magical variety, it's also infused with real world problems and commentary.

This isn't my usual genre, but Zalika Reid-Benta's writing could sell me on just about any format or genre. I loved her first book, Frying Plantain, even though that was short stories (something I typically dislike). I also tend to be easily bored by fantasy. However, I was engaged in River Mumma start to finish. She tells deep and complex stories in a concise and easy to follow way - making the reading experience minimum effort, maximum gain.

Due to the subject matter and ages of the characters, I think younger adult readers who like both social commentary and magical elements will find the most to like here. I'd also recommend to those who like fantasy based on folklore. To anyone who liked the author's first book, but don't think this will be your thing - I'd say give it a try anyway, it's quick to read and might open your mind to something new.

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Thank you net gallery for the advanced copy of this book. This was a fast-paced adventure based on Caribbean folklore set in Canada in the snow. Everything happens in the span of 24 hours. This was a fun read.

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The book starts with Alicia at a party for her coworker and friend heaven and she just sits there wishing she would’ve never showed up. When she finally goes home before she can find the relief that home brings she finds herself in the river behind our house seeing the deity River MumMA my understanding of this deity is that someone dropped gold in the river and she protects it and the river and also seeks revenge on those greedy enough to search out the treasure. In any event she tells Alicia to find her comb and she has 24 hours to do it. She will eventually get her friend heaven and Marcus her two coworkers to help her but first she hast to stop dropping out of reality and walking between the conscious and unconscious sometimes she sees her relatives other times that she sees an old white man who was a plantation owner back on the island and there’s even another time where she sees a ghost that seemingly wants to bleed her dry of all her energy. Thankfully at the party I previously mentioned she met a girl name Ono. Oh no is it true priestess or practicer of the magic Alicia needs or at the very least they’re hoping she is that will get rid of this Duppey. A Duppy is a sort of ghost that reeks havoc on its intended target in this case it was Alicia. This book is mainly told as a funny story I originally wanted to read it because of its mythological and folk story aim but I laughed so hard especially when Ono sent Heaven to get the ingredients she needed and she had to make do with what was in the kitchen and then when they put saran wrap down because the tubs was dirty I was laughing so hard in heavens biggest complaint was that she didn’t have gloves… I am laughing as I’m writing that. This book was funny and they do talk in aCaribbean affect in at first it’s a little of pudding but after the first or second chapter you’re pretty much get the jest of what they’re saying I didn’t find out an issue at all as for their Toronto comments I know about Tim Hortons but the bus breaking down I think that is a fear and or reality of any big city dweller there were a couple of things I didn’t get in the book but I didn’t find that affected my enjoyment of the book at all and I still rated it four stars. I totally loved heaven and how she flip-flop from trying to be The main character to really wanting to help her friend especially when they got with Ono she kept getting insulted because she didn’t know thing she earlier profess to know this whole book was funny I truly enjoyed it and would definitely read another book by this author. I want to thank the publisher and NetGalley for my free arc copy please forgive any mistakes as I am blind and dictate my review.

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River Mumma is a fast-paced magical realist novel. I’ve never been to Toronto, but the map and descriptions brought the city to life; it’s almost its own character. I could have used some Tim’s while reading this book.

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I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

River Mumma by Zalika Reid-Benta is a contemporary fantasy novel centering on Jamaican folklore, particularly the mermaid River Mumma, and takes place in Toronto. On her way home from a party, Alicia is confronted by River Mumma to retrieve the mermaid’s comb that was stolen from Jamaica and she has a day to do it.

I was not expecting the references to The Wizard of Oz and I loved how they were integrated into the novel. The use of it in prose, the subtle build-up to how it all comes together, and how it’s a new spin on the material all feel satisfying.

Two of the themes the novel explores is appropriation vs appreciation and the connection to your ancestors and homeland. Appropriation vs appreciation is mentioned a few times, particularly in reference to a Jamaican restaurant that is not owned by someone from the community and how there are different viewpoints on this situation. Alicia sees her ancestors and we get insight into a Jamaican funeral and the moving of furniture afterwards, connecting to ancestry and how the history of Afro-Caribbean people impacts their culture, including in how the community handles death.

I would recommend this to readers looking for books with Jamaican folklore, fans of mermaids who are open to non-European mermaids, and readers who want a more fast-paced book based in Canada.

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