Let Us Descend
Two-time National Book Award-winner Jesmyn Ward (for Sing Unburied, Sing; and Salvage the Bones) takes a different direction with her fourth novel, Let Us Descend. Beautifully written and heartrending, this historical novel sensitively handles grief, love, and recovery, as readers follow enslaved Annis from a rice plantation in North Carolina through her journey with the "Georgia Man" and a line of other chained-together stolen people to the chattel slavery market in New Orleans.
The novel opens with the loving foundation laid by Annis's mother, who teaches her how to forage for mushrooms and how to defend herself, as well as tells her stories about her African warrior grandmother, Mama Aza. With these tools plus her natural gifts--intelligence and curiosity--Annis discovers her own sense of agency, even at the most constrained moments. Although spirits of storms and the earth attempt to guide Annis, it's her mother and grandmother's spirits that give Annis the strength to survive.