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When the Reckoning Comes by LaTanya McQueen #BookReview

When the Reckoning Comes is a haunting novel about a black woman who returns to her hometown for a plantation wedding and the horror that ensues as she reconnects with the blood-soaked history of the land and the best friends she left behind.

More than a decade ago, Mira fled her small, segregated hometown in the south to forget. With every mile she traveled, she distanced herself from her past: from her best friend Celine, mocked by their town as the only white girl with black friends; from her old neighborhood; from the eerie Woodsman plantation rumored to be haunted by the spirits of slaves; from the terrifying memory of a ghost she saw that terrible day when a dare-gone-wrong almost got Jesse—the boy she secretly loved—arrested for murder.

But now Mira is back in Kipsen to attend Celine’s wedding at the plantation, which has been transformed into a lush vacation resort. Mira hopes to reconnect with her friends, and especially, Jesse, to finally tell him the truth about her feelings and the events of that devastating long-ago day.

But for all its fancy renovations, the Woodsman remains a monument to its oppressive racist history. The bar serves antebellum drinks, entertainments include horrifying reenactments, and the service staff is nearly all black. Yet the darkest elements of the plantation’s past have been carefully erased—rumors that slaves were tortured mercilessly and that ghosts roam the lands, seeking vengeance on the descendants of those who tormented them, which includes most of the wedding guests. 

As the weekend unfolds, Mira, Jesse, and Celine are forced to acknowledge their history together, and to save themselves from what is to come.

The title is in bold red letters across the center of the cover. It is surrounded by a swamp and some of letters drip down like blood

Title: When the Reckoning Comes |  Author: LaTanya McQueen| Publisher: Harper Perennial Pub. Date: 03 August 2021 | Pages: 237 | ISBN: ‎9780063035041 | Genre: Horror | Language: English |  Source: Publisher | Starred Review

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When the Reckoning Comes  Review

“She thought if she moved far enough away and buried it deep, the truth about that day would never surface. What had taken Mira a long time to realize was that it was always there, hidden but never lost.”

LaTanya McQueen, When the Reckoning Comes

One of the best parts of experiencing an author’s debut novel is the the thrill of discovery. Whether the book turns out to be an amazing experience or not, witnessing the work and the mind of someone new is an event. In the case of When the Reckoning Comes, by LaTanya McQueen, readers needn’t worry. Supernatural horror and the very real horrors of racism and prejudice are joined with a real talent for storytelling sure to engage readers.

Told from the viewpoint of Mira, a Black woman who has attempted to escape her past through lack of proximity and her career, she heads home for the wedding of one of her oldest friends, Celine. McQueen wastes no time endearing readers to Mira; her anxiety and even feelings of hope are on full display as she makes the trip home. Flashbacks are woven seamlessly into the threads of the novel in order to provide both context and a deeper sense of connection.

It is this build up, this attention to detail and care for the readers’ investment, which makes Woodsman plantation all the more shocking. As mentioned in the synopsis, this former home of slavery and pain as been renovated and, of course, it is the Celine’s chosen wedding venue. McQueen deftly discusses the real horrors of the past and their ever present mark on today’s timeline. Jesse, Mira, and Celine realize they must face what has become before in order to have a hope for the future.

“How many communities had men like these destroyed to rubble, leaving only ash from the burning wreckage as it billowed toward the sky?”

LaTanya McQueen, When the Reckoning Comes

This debut falls solidly in the horror genre. Much like Toni Morrison’s Beloved, When the Reckoning Comes is the intersection of fictional horrors and very real ones. From a certainly haunted plantation, to terrifying revelations, McQueen taps into the kind of dread and darkness readers hope to experience. In fact, several parts of this might be quite difficult for even the most seasoned of horror readers. It is that earlier connection, that personal engagement, combined with truly captivating writing that makes it all the more horrific.

If you are looking for a great, important read this September (or whenever) consider picking up this book. It is sure to appeal to a wide variety of readers. This is a stunning debut novel.

  You can purchase a copy of this book via your normal retailer, but please consider purchasing it from a local indie bookshop instead. It may be found here at Indiebound or at BookShop.  Please note the Bookshop link is an affiliate link and each purchase you make through it helps to support Sci-Fi & Scary and keep the site running.

Published inBook ReviewsHorror Book ReviewsStarred Reviews

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