by Phillip B. Williams
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Pub Date 20 Feb 2024 | Archive Date 20 Apr 2024
PENGUIN GROUP Viking, Viking
“Fans of The Underground Railroad, The Water Dancer, and Let Us Descend will devour this lyrical and surreal saga.” —Oprah Daily
From a writer of singular voice and vision, a mesmerizing epic that reimagines the past to explore the true nature of freedom
In this ingenious, sweeping novel, Phillip B. Williams introduces us to an enigmatic woman named Saint, a fearsome conjuror who, in the 1830s, annihilates plantations all over Arkansas to rescue the people enslaved there. She brings those she has freed to a haven of her own creation: a town just north of St. Louis, magically concealed from outsiders, named Ours.
It is in this miraculous place that Saint’s grand experiment—a truly secluded community where her people may flourish—takes root. But although Saint does her best to protect the inhabitants of Ours, over time, her conjuring and memories begin to betray her, leaving the town vulnerable to intrusions by newcomers with powers of their own. As the cracks in Saint’s creation are exposed, some begin to wonder whether the community’s safety might be yet another form of bondage.
Set over the course of four decades and steeped in a rich tradition of American literature informed by Black surrealism, mythology, and spirituality, Ours is a stunning exploration of the possibilities and limitations of love and freedom by a writer of capacious vision and talent.
“A beautifully-written and ambitious epic about the complexity of freedom. Williams crafts an expansive, original world filled with characters who linger long after the final page.” —Brit Bennett, New York Times bestselling author of The Vanishing Half
“As consummate and compelling a storyteller as he is a poet, in Ours Phillip B. Williams spins a stellar tale of resistance and reconstruction that could school any US history book. Crossing rivers and decades, involving folk culture and the miraculous as a matter of course, and centering on the mysterious Saint and the secret community she creates in the midst of 19th century chattel slavery and the long battle for Black freedom, Ours speaks to our past, present and future with incomparable poetic verve.” —John Keene, National Book Award-winning author of Punks: New and Selected Poems
“Phillip Williams’ Ours is a radical re-creation of our pasts. With a keen eye to historical detail and the expansive imagination of a poet, Williams has constructed a jewel of a novel, a deeply felt exploration of the strengthening ties and broken cords of kith and kin under the weight of complicated histories. In the uncertain future that awaits us, Ours illuminates a greater understanding of what it means to be human and the complex, tangled lives and afterlives of enslavement.” —Kaitlyn Greenidge, author of Libertie
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 21 members
Phillip B. Williams masterfully orchestrates language, narrative, characterization, and brilliance, infusing them into the very essence of "Ours." The story ostensibly revolves around the inhabitants of Ours, a town just north of St. Louis, founded in 1832 by the town's emancipator, Saint, for a population of formerly enslaved individuals. Over the next four decades, the novel unfolds the tales of their lives, loves, and the evolving, strained relationship between Saint and the town's residents. However, "Ours" transcends mere storytelling; in the hands of this skilled writer, it becomes a tapestry woven with threads of ancient magic, colonialist occupation, and modern resistance, pulsating with life so vividly that the reader feels immersed alongside the characters.
While rooted in the era of slavery, this novel is firmly grounded in the myriad possibilities and complexities of freedom. Phillip B. Williams avoids seeking simplistic answers, consistently elevating the exploration of his themes, resulting in emotionally charged passages and prose that soars with grace and power.