What You Leave Behind

A Novel

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Pub Date Jun 18 2024 | Archive Date Aug 13 2024
William Morrow | William Morrow Paperbacks

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Award-winning author Wanda Morris returns with a powerful, haunting thriller following a lawyer who after the mysterious disappearance of a local landowner and the death of his sister just months before, uncovers a conspiracy that dates back to Reconstruction and persists in half the United States today.

Deena Wood’s life has fallen apart in the aftermath of losing her beloved mother, her marriage, and her prestigious job at an Atlanta law firm. She needs what the Geechee people of coastal Georgia call a “dayclean,” a fresh start.

She returns to her childhood home in Brunswick, Georgia, to heal. But her return is anything but the respite she thought it might be. To make peace with all her loss, she often drives through the city. One day, she unwittingly finds herself on the oceanfront property of a loner widower who is fighting to keep land that has been in his family since the end of the Civil War. He threatens her and warns her to never return. But shortly after, he disappears, and his very expensive property is quickly put up for sale. Curious about what has happened to the man, Deena digs into his disappearance and finds a family legacy at risk. What starts out as a bit of curious snooping, turns into a deadly game of illegal land grabs and property redevelopment in poor and rural communities with dark and powerful forces at work.

Without realizing it, Deena finds herself caught up in a nightmarish scheme that threatens her community and her family. She’ll need help and finds it in a close but unlikely source because she knows she must do whatever it takes to stop the sinister forces at play before she becomes their next target.

Award-winning author Wanda Morris returns with a powerful, haunting thriller following a lawyer who after the mysterious disappearance of a local landowner and the death of his sister just months...

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ISBN 9780063322219
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Featured Reviews

Stunning, breathtaking, mind-blowing! Three words that succinctly capture my emotions during this unputdownable wild ride. It ensnared me from the very first page, keeping me on the edge of my seat, shivering and nervous, urging me to turn the pages faster.

This thrilling tale seamlessly weaves racism, political corruption, and history into spirituality. It takes us on a journey alongside the resilient lawyer, Deena Wood, who has been hit by tragedy like tsunami waves—losing her mother, betrayed by her ex, and ousted from her home, all while being terminated from her job. How much can one person endure? Now, with her tail between her legs, she returns to her hometown of coastal Georgia, Brunswick, where the culture of the Geeche people envelops her like a comforting safety blanket.

Returning to her childhood home becomes confusing when her mother is replaced by Ruth, her mother's best friend, who married her father only six months after burying her mother. She resents her newfound stepmother, blaming herself for failing to piece together the fragments of her shattered life.

A chance encounter with Holcomb Gardner, mistaking her for a realtor trying to take his land, turns Deena's day into a nerve-wracking experience with a barrel pointed at her head. The threats from an old man in a trailer are not the only highlights of her day; she's also pursued by a mysterious car on her return journey. Who is following her? Why does an old man in a trailer claim ownership of a million-dollar land? Which company is trying to take it from him?

While she toils away at her suffocating job to save enough funds to escape her childhood home, Deena's mind remains fixated on the mystery of the missing old man and the suspicious death of her sister. Could they be connected to those who pose a threat to the lives of many townspeople? Why does her own father act as if he's seen a ghost when she mentions the Gardners? She delves deeper not just for herself but for the townies who risk losing everything inherited from their ancestors.

Deena senses the clinking shackles of the brave Igbo people who chose death over slavery by walking into Dunbar Creek. She feels indebted to shed light on a massive corruption for her own "dayclean": a fresh start!

This epic and thought-provoking story of the Geeche people will linger in my mind and heart for a long time. It stands as one of the marvelous works of 2024! Don't miss this amazing read deserving more than five stars!

A heartfelt thank you to NetGalley and William Morrow for providing me with a digital reviewer copy of this epic book in exchange for my honest thoughts.

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5 Stars!! This exceeded my expectations.
The story flowed well and the characters were well developed. I recommend this book and look forward to more from this author.

****Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing an ARC in exchange for my honest review****

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The tale starts when Deena returns to her childhood house in Brunswick, Georgia. She wants peace and a new beginning. But, her dreams of a calm escape are ruined when she accidentally finds the seaside land of a hidden widower. She doesn’t know this meeting will send her on a scary route filled with risk and mystery.

Morris is good at connecting her characters’ problems with more significant societal matters. Deena’s journey to find out why the widower went missing showed that illegal land stealing and turning old poor village areas into new places happened. Deena bravely works for justice and symbolizes hope in her community. She battles against powerful and dark forces.

Morris’ clear pictures of the seaside of Georgia make a lovely setting for the story. They put readers deeply into the exciting past and culture of that place. Morris pays close attention to details, making the location feel real. This added depth to the story. The Geechee people and their ways are easily connected to the story, giving a unique and authentic view.

“What You Leave Behind” is an exciting book that makes you think. It has parts of mystery, opinions about society, and how people can improve themselves. Wanda Morris tells a great story that keeps people reading and caring about what will happen next. It’s hard to stop reading her book. This book has solid ideas and great characters. It will make a deep impression on people after reading it.

Thank you to William Morrow and NetGalley for allowing me to read and review this book.

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Another great book by Wanda Morris! Expertly written and a book which sheds light on areas of our past and present which needs to be brought to light. This book kept me on the edge of my seat waiting to see how the story would unravel and come together at the end. As with "Anywhere You Run," I loved learning about a piece of history, especially a piece of my home state's history, which I knew nothing about prior to reading. Wanda is skilled at weaving in the past, present, and future into the story line in such a dynamic way. She writes with passion and draws you deeply into the life of the characters so that you care deeply about them and what happens to them throughout the book. Can't wait for more from this author!

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I have always been interested in reading about the Geechee-Gullah and grabbed this book immediately. Like many stories hitting the news now, there is a focus on the rights of the people and the land that they live on currently and in the past. Morris creates a clear view of the community while including a bit of the gothic taste in spirits and hauntings.

Deena Woods is a scrappy lawyer about to enter her 40th year. She has returned home after an upsetting divorce that has pierced her heart and made her question her own judgement. In her family home she is forced to confront the woman her father married 6 months after the death of her beloved mother and work a soul-sucking job at a local business. But when Deena runs into an unknown man she cannot let go of the feeling of foreboding that she experienced. Before long she is pulling at threads and following a long and twisted trail uncovering a redevelopment plan that hurts the entire community.

Along the way there is plenty of family drama and complex characters to pull you in. I greatly enjoyed the history and the contemporary information on the area. I also enjoyed that our protagonist was not helpless or hapless. I would love to befriend Deena and hope to read her again!
#whatyouleavebehind #wandammorris

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Wanda M. Morris is steadily becoming one of my go-to authors. Her storytelling prowess is truly exceptional, showcasing a remarkable gift for narrative. In this particular book, we follow the journey of Deena, a recently divorced woman in her 30s who finds herself at rock bottom, diligently working to reclaim the life she deserves. Amidst the backdrop of her mother's passing, she moves back in with her father, navigating a neighborhood undergoing gentrification with the repeated plea, "Don’t sell grandma’s home!"

The novel resonates strongly with the ongoing gentrification affecting predominantly Black neighborhoods. It sheds light on the poignant reality that homes purchased and settled into during the 1950s and beyond are now being sold as the original owners pass away, often leaving their children land rich but cash poor.

I found immense enjoyment in every aspect of this book—the compelling narrative, the endearing characters (especially Deena’s father and uncle), and the added dimension of the paranormal elements that breathed a refreshing air into the story.

I will be recommending this book to everyone who will listen. Thanks @netgalley for the digital ARC.

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Wanda M. Morris does it again with her new magnificently haunting thriller. From start to finish, this book does not disappoint with all its twists and turns. Keeps you guessing until the end!

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First and foremost, thank you to William Morrow and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC for an honest review!

"What You Leave Behind" is a force to be reckoned with in all of the best ways. I was enthralled reading this book and found it so difficult to put down from the moment I started to read it. As a thriller, this book is great. What makes it incredible is the fact that it takes something that I knew very little about and that is a real-world issue, and uses it to its fullest extent to show how the decisions of the rich and powerful so frequently rob the rest of us of our power.

This book is aptly named, with its focus on legacy, heirs, property, and generational wealth. All of that comes together in a plot driven by an insidious and realistic mystery, boosted by the strong characters that Morris created. Deena is a fantastic protagonist and the world that she inhabits feels real and grounded, which allows for the story to develop in a way that feels natural. It asks the reader to consider the way that opportunities for generational wealth have been stolen from Black communities for centuries, and asks it in a way that just so happens to be thrilling to read.

The book is also aptly named due to its focus on new beginnings, with Deena having come out of a divorce and essentially having to start over in life, while trying to leave behind a lot of the hurt and pain she has been through. In this aspect, the book becomes a very strong character-driven story, with Deena and those in her life becoming easy to care about and easy to root for.

All in all, I highly recommend this book to any fan of thrillers, but also as a fictional book that might actually provide a touch of education!

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This was a strong thriller novel. I really thought the concept worked well and that it had a scary feel cause of the disappearance. The characters felt like real people that were going through this event and I was kind of crazy to go through, because things just kept happening. Wanda M. Morris has a great writing style and I can't wait to read more from her. The cover was beautifully executed for the book and it just added to the mysterious elements of the story.

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Wanda Morris does it again--grabbed my attention with a killer premise and kept me guessing the whole time I was reading. Couldn't put this one down!

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Deena Wood has lost her mother, her job and her cheating husband. She returns to her hometown and ends up investigating murder. With the help of her father and uncle she uncovers a scheme to steal property from home owners who have very little. Will she be able to stop the forces at play before she becomes their next target. I had a hard time putting this book down. I highly recommend it.

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Thank you for the ARC William Marrow Books.

This was my first book from Wanda Morris and overall I truly enjoyed it. I love the spotlight on the issues that blacks have dealt with and how it basically goes on to this day. I love that she uses her literature to bring forth the issues.

I really liked the characters in this story. The story was a bit slow for me in the beginning but I feel like it when it picked up it really picked up. Deena was irritating to me in certain parts just because stuff would happen and she wouldn't remember to tell the people that actually mattered. Somethings just went on longer than they should. She was so stubborn but we all are at some point.

Once the book picks up it really gets good. Secrets, Deceit, Betrayal, Suspense, Murder, and Rekindled love is what you find. I loved the book and would read again.

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Deena has had a rough time between her mother passing away, a divorce and losing a job at a prestigious law firm. She heads back home to her dad and his new wife to try to find her next step in life. While doing this, she stumbles upon a mystery that consists of murder, secrets and people losing land that has been in their families for generations.

I really enjoyed reading this book, the beginning started a little slow but soon enough I was eager to see what would happen next. I loved most of the characters, and wanted to see them win. I really enjoyed the low country setting and getting to learn about the Gullah Geechee culture. I wasn’t expecting the paranormal bits of this book, but still enjoyed them. This book definitely makes you think about some social issues also. It was a great read!!

Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

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This was my first Wanda M. Morris read, but it definitely won’t be my last.

What You Leave Behind was a strong thriller with just a hint of spiritual and supernatural elements that I loved and felt added to the atmosphere and suspense of the novel. There was some great tension that continued to build as Deena’s story unraveled, and Morris was great at teasing that suspense out and helping it last for the reader. I never felt bored or disinterested in where the story was going, and I honestly can’t say that for all thrillers.

The setting and voice of the novel were probably my favorite parts however, as Georgia and the South as a whole (with its incredibly painful and racist history… and present) featured prominently in the plot and in helping provide framework for the story. As a Georgia native, I was really impressed with how Morris captured the feeling of living in the South, the hospitality and hypocrisy that go so hand in hand.

Morris also brought a beautiful cadence and naturalness to the dialogue between characters that I found comforting and familiar. A few times while I was reading I felt like I was sitting at my own grandmother’s table listening to family members talk over a great southern meal.

I also was really interested in learning about the heirs property laws and how developers and corporations use the system to take people’s homes and land away from them, yet another example of the deep seated and systemic racism that puts so many people of color and impoverished people at an even greater disadvantage. This element of the story was well woven and felt necessary and important; it was clear this was a topic Morris researched and cared deeply about.

I highly recommend What You Leave Behind to readers looking for a different and unique thriller that has themes around social justice, racism, grief, loss, and family.

Thanks so much to NetGalley for this advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.

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Filled with tension and suspense, this page turner taught me so much about the treachery that exists going back to Reconstruction and persisting still today. Life for attorney Deena Wood is not going well. Recently divorced, fired from her high powered job and grieving the loss of her mother, Deena returns to her childhood home in coastal Brunswick, Georgia where her father and his new wife live. Not satisfied in her current job, Deena often finds herself leaving the office and taking long drives through the city and coastal communities. On one of these excursions, she finds herself on a beautiful piece of property where she is greeted by a gun toting man named Holcomb Gardner who is convinced she is there with threats to force him off the land that has belonged to his family since the end of the Civil War. As Deena starts to unravel the murderous, criminal actions of the company “stealing” the homes and property of poor Black people who are rightly trying to hang tight to their homes against the threats, she herself becomes a target. With themes of racism and political and institutional corruption against the survivors of the Geechee African slaves, this story will take you on an action packed experience that will open your mind to the inequities that still exist in our society today.

Thank you NetGalley, William Morrow and Wanda M. Morris for giving me the good fortune to read this exceptional book that filled my desire to be entertained and educated by what I read. Publication date: June 18th

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Ok I'll admit it took me a while to get into this book. I'm not sure if it was how culture rich it was or my lack of knowledge in the culture or if it was just my chaotic life. Once I got into it the story flowed really good and I stayed up into the late hours reading to finish this story. I learned so much about the culture and history that lies in Georgia and now I truly want to visit the state. The story kept me on the edge of seat trying to figure out who was responsible for the deaths of Delilah and Holcomb and as a dog lover I'm so happy Trooper found his way back to people who would truly love him like Holcomb did at the end! Great story and I'll be looking for more books from you Wanda Morris to add to my knowledge of your people as well as for the story you write! Thank you Harper Collins and Netgalley for an advanced copy of this book!

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In the beginning, I thought this was a fine read. Oof – that’s like a death knell word, isn’t it? It’s…fine. Happily, it turned into: It’s great!

And, seriously, it’s a great read. I adored Deena and her father and poor Ruth. (Oh, I loved Ruth. She was so good and meant so well!)

And while the story starts a little slowly, it definitely ramps up into a tale of murder, greed, and the terrible things we do to others. At times, I was enraged.

I completely adored the parts of Gullah Geechee culture and legend we learned and, honestly, before I knew it this ‘fine’ read turned into a book I didn’t want to put down!

I ended up enjoying it tremendously and would read the author again in a heartbeat.

• ARC via Publisher

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