From Jesmyn Ward—the two-time National Book Award winner, youngest winner of the Library of Congress Prize for Fiction, and MacArthur Fellow—comes a haunting masterpiece, sure to be an instant classic, about an enslaved girl in the years before the Civil War.
“‘Let us descend,’ the poet now began, ‘and enter this blind world.’” —Inferno, Dante Alighieri
Let Us Descend is a reimagining of American slavery, as beautifully rendered as it is heart-wrenching. Searching, harrowing, replete with transcendent love, the novel is a journey from the rice fields of the Carolinas to the slave markets of New Orleans and into the fearsome heart of a Louisiana sugar plantation.
Annis, sold south by the white enslaver who fathered her, is the listener’s guide through this hellscape. As she struggles through the miles-long march, Annis turns inward, seeking comfort from memories of her mother and stories of her African warrior grandmother. Throughout, she opens herself to a world beyond this world, one teeming with spirits: of earth and water, of myth and history; spirits who nurture and give, and those who manipulate and take. While Ward leads listeners through the descent, this, her fourth novel, is ultimately a story of rebirth and reclamation.
From one of the most singularly brilliant and beloved writers of her generation, this miracle of a novel inscribes Black American grief and joy into the very land—the rich but unforgiving forests, swamps, and rivers of the American South. Let Us Descend is Jesmyn Ward’s most magnificent novel yet, a masterwork for the ages.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Jesmyn Ward’s stunning and harrowing historical novel paints a visceral portrait of slavery as a lived experience. Annis is a young, enslaved woman in antebellum North Carolina. Her father and owner are one and the same, and when he separates her from her mother and sends her on a treacherous march to be sold in New Orleans, he turns her world inside out. But Annis finds strength by drawing on the ancestral memories her mother instilled in her and communing with the spirits of those who came before her. Ward’s prose is pure poetry, and the nuance she brings to her narration truly lets us inhabit Annis’ inner world. Full of unspeakable hardships and transcendent beauty, Let Us Descend is a vital portrait of the Black American spirit.