A Reckoning: Book summary and reviews of A Reckoning by Linda Spalding

A Reckoning

by Linda Spalding

A Reckoning by Linda Spalding X
A Reckoning by Linda Spalding
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  • Published in USA  Mar 2018
    320 pages
    Genre: Historical Fiction

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Book Summary

A richly evocative and important novel about what happens to a Virginia family that must come to terms with their slave-owning past as the Civil War approaches and an abolitionist visits their plantation, throwing it into turmoil and eventually sending the family West.

It is 1855. The thousand-acre Dickinson farm on the Virginia-Kentucky border is run by two brothers - Benjamin, who owns the land, and John, a circuit-riding Methodist preacher, who manages the land and the sale of cotton and brandy. When a naturalist arrives asking questions about birds and plants, he's invited to stay--but his real mission is to distribute maps, compasses, and knives to the slaves, who then begin to escape, causing chaos on the farm and bitterness between the brothers. We follow one half of the family as they head for the Kansas Territory and we follow one of the runaway slaves as he travels to freedom in Canada.

Both journeys are full of electrifying incident, near escapes, and the astonishing beauty of undefiled America. Throughout, the characters contend with eternal vicissitudes and the pleasures of family and friends, and sometimes loneliness, but they must all finally come to a reckoning with America's original sin: slavery.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Spalding's timely, historically sensitive sequel to The Purchase (2013), a literary saga which also confidently stands alone, explores the ramifications of slavery on the next generation of the Dickinson family." - Booklist

"An engrossing, deftly crafted narrative ... A Virginia family suffers poverty and sorrow as slavery tears their world apart ... As the characters struggle to survive, they discover that redemption is elusive and forgiveness, hard-won." - Kirkus

"Spalding's novel is a grim tale of pre–Civil War tensions, economic despair, and family disintegration, rife with historical detail." - Publishers Weekly

"What a brilliant and harrowing book! Everyone thinks they know the epic story of early nineteenth-century America, of the covered wagons and the way west; A Reckoning will persuade you that you don't." - Robert Hass

"A dark and mythopoetic novel ... that stands apart for its texture, moral nuance, and the somber earthy prose." - The Globe and Mail

"A beautiful and brilliant work of art, vulnerable, driven, and unsettling. A humane and timely examination of how the societies we create — just or profoundly unjust — set the parameters for the people we become. Extraordinary." - Madeleine Thien

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Author Information

Linda Spalding Author Biography

Linda Spalding was born in Kansas and lived in Mexico and Hawaii before immigrating to Canada in 1982. She is the author of four critically acclaimed novels, The Purchase (awarded Canada's Governor General's Literary Award), Daughters of Captain Cook, The Paper Wife, and (with her daughter Esta) Mere. Her nonfiction includes A Dark Place in the Jungle, Riska: Memories of a Dayak Girlhood, and Who Named the Knife. In 2003 Spalding received the Harbourfront Festival Prize for her contribution to the Canadian literary community. She lives in Toronto, where she is an editor at Brick magazine.

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