Magical Realism Meets History

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allie.peduto Avatar

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I will start off by saying I loved the premise of this story! Historical fiction is my favorite genre, and the interweaving between the different character arcs was right up my alley, but ultimately the story got a bit muddled with the magical realism aspects. I personally do not mind magical realism (I read a lot of fantasy and sci-fi) but it felt out of place in this story. I think the author did a good job trying to explain the elements that reader's needed to know, but it ended up just being confusing. I wanted a clearer explanation earlier of what was going on, but even halfway through the book, I was still just trying to keep up with who was who.

The story revolves around 4 different women, spanning from 1791 to present day. The bulk of the story takes place in the 1850s, within a place called Remembrance. Mother Abigail, the creator of the safe space within the Underground Railroad, is the primary character, and her story begins with the revolutions in Haiti in the 1790s. She flees with her mistress to New Orleans, and escapes on to Ohio to create Remembrance. Margot, a slave born in New Orleans and then sold to a farmer in Kentucky, travels to Remembrance via the Underground Railroad, where she crosses paths with Abigail. The final characters, an elderly lady in the present day with ties to Remembrance, and a young women named Gaelle, who was forced to leave Haiti after the 2010 earthquakes, cross paths in the nursing home Gaelle works in. Without spoiling any of the story, these stories all converge to show the implications even in present day of the lingering racism brought on from the institution of slavery, the horrors of which can seem never ending.

I feel that this is an important story to be told, especially in today's climate, but I personally enjoyed similar novels, such as Colson Whitehead's "The Underground Railroad" more than this one, if only due to the confusing nature of this story. The message is the same though: we cannot forget those who paved the way to a fairer and more just world, and we must not let their sacrifice go forgotten by succumbing to prejudice. That is the true meaning of Remembrance.