The BookBrowse Review

Published January 22, 2020

ISSN: 1930-0018

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Book Jacket

by Rita Woods
21 Jan 2020
416 pages
Publisher: Forge Books
ISBN-13: 9781250298454
Genre: Novels
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BookBrowse members resident in the USA can request free review copies of books through our First Impressions program. Below are their opinions on one such book...

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Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Linda K. (Sunset, SC)

For fans of historical based novels, Remembrance is an emotional experience into a dark chapter of slavery in the new world. The overlaying stories of the female characters in Dominica in the late 17th century, fleeing to the port city of New Orleans, the American Civil War and Underground Railroad provide a rich background drop for Rita Woods' novel. The characters are interesting and elicited an emotional reader connection to the story.

As well written as it was, I felt myself losing interest in the final chapters which became bogged down with too much dialogue. However, loved the ending with the current day character of Gaelle and think as sequel would be anticipated.
Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Becky S. (Springfield, MO)

Twist on a familiar story
This book was so different from any I have ever read! I am not one to read science fiction or the fantasy genre, yet I have read many historical fiction books.. this was what I would call a mystical, historical fiction. The special powers of the women in the story, is what made it all so special. I found that I couldn't put the book down and was tense with wondering what was going to happen next! I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the imaginative way it was written.. very talented author ! I recommend this book for anyone who thinks they have read all there is about slavery, for this gives it a different twist altogether. It sure gave me a lot to think about ... are there people with special, mystical gifts walking amongst us? Read this book and I suspect you might become a believer!
Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Mary O. (Boston, MA)

I LOVED this book! This book is a study of superb character development and the interconnections between three special women. As you turn the pages, you become even more a participant in their lives and the characters continue to haunt you after the book is long done. A book everyone should read - a TOTAL JOY!!
Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Jean L. (Omaha, NE)

Remembrance, a book to remember
REMEMBERANCE, a book written by Rita Woods, tells the story of three women who lived in a time when slavery existed in Haiti and a young America. Though they lived in different time periods, they each shared a cultural heritage that could be traced back to Haiti. Each of them had special gifts or powers that they used to help others and help themselves as they struggled to become free. Abigail, Margot, and Winter each had their own story. The fourth women, Gaelle lived in the late 60's in Cleveland, Ohio. This was an historical time of racial unrest. Although not a slave by definition, she was a victim of poverty and was soon to be evicted from the a home she had lived in for over twenty five years. This story is similar to the evictions the slaves experienced from their "masters" who moved them or sold them from Haiti, New Orleans, Far Water, and Kentucky

This story also documents the cruelty of the institution of slavery and the inhumanity of men and women on men, women, and children.

The book is historical in that there was a slave uprising in Haiti in 1791. Thousands of people died in New Orleans because of an outbreak of yellow fever in 1857. The Fugitive Slave Laws we're passed by Congress. This created a new job market for bounty hunters. What was not historical is a place called Remembrance. You will want to know about this magical place.

In spite of that, the book, REMEMBRANCE is a book you will remember long after you have turned the last page.
Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Melissa S. (Rowland, NC)

Rita Woods' massive 400-page debut novel, "Remembrance", does not disappoint. Woods artistically weaves history and fantasy into a lyrical story of slavery, despair, love, and desires. Following the journeys of three women (and countless other subplots) from both past and present, Woods encourages the reader on an adventure that left me, personally, wanting more. I wanted to know exactly how each character's story finished. This longing, I feel, is one litmus of a great novel.

"Remembrance's" lyrical story of love, despair, and human strength during slavery is very reminiscent of Yaa Gyasi's "Homecoming". The two debut novels take the history of slavery in both America and Africa and eloquently place it in the reader's lap to both absorb and live. I cannot give enough credence to the lyrical language and the almost trance-like state Woods and Gyasi put their readers.

The fantastical element in "Remembrance" left me wishing "if only" for the few slaves it benefited in the novel. I'm sure this place was exactly what many slaves dreamed of at night – a place to go where no white man could find them, and in plain sight!

I felt like the current-day plot with Gaelle and Josiah was left a little undone. I wish I had more detail and background as to exactly what Josiah was and how he and Gaelle are going to manage in the modern-day world. I also want more on Winter. She was such a pivotal character and I feel like a huge chunk of her life and existence after the civil war was just not there. I wanted to know how she managed to be placed in the nursing home and why she never spoke.

In conclusion, "Remembrance" is a novel of epic proportions. Woods tells a story that has been told countless times and makes it new and raw again. Reading Woods' debut novel will leave the reader with a sense that everything in this world is not as it seems. The reader cannot help but question the possibility that maybe there are forces at work in this life many will never experience, but a few will.
Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Gail B. (Albuquerque, NM)

Is voodoo real, or is there truly a portal between time and space? REMEMBRANCE demands a leap of faith -- but then the reader is in for a treat. The novel begins in a modern-day nursing home and spans time from the 1791 slave rebellion in Haiti, to mid-19th century Louisiana to today, as black women struggle for freedom. The community of Remembrance is surrounded by "the Edge," which allows its residents to move through time and place. Rita Wood has written such an intriguing story, I read it twice.
Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Rebecca G. (Havertown, PA)

Mystical and Magical
It is intriguing to me that so many novels involving African American slaves contain some sort of magic. Slaves that can shape time and space, can see the future, can talk to and conjure up the spirits. I have always wondered if the magic is a way of dealing with the extreme oppression, of controlling and confusing the Whites who perpetuate the evil, if that makes it real. Remembrance is the best example of this magic that I've ever read. It's the story of four women: Abigail, the creator, Margot, Winter and Gaelle, women who have experienced slavery and evil either directly or indirectly. It's the story of a place, Remembrance, a place of sanctuary along the road to freedom that ultimately cannot escape the horrors of the power of the "blancs".

I fell in love with these women and that place, their strength, their fortitude, their love. The story is ultimately a warning. We have not overcome racism but there are those ready to protect the oppressed at all cost. This a story everyone should read.
Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Pamela W. (Piney Flats, TN)

Remembrance, Perfect for Me
If you prefer or need your fiction to be chronological, Remembrance is not for you. If you want your fiction to seem like "real life," Remembrance is not for you. I loved the strong yet flawed women with special talents. I felt the sense of place in each locale. The action and relationships are compelling. I've read all of Morrison, a divine writer, and loved Homegoing, The Underground Railroad, and The Nickel Boys. This novel stood up well against these works. I even want to know more about quantum mechanics!
Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Melanie B. (Desoto, TX)

Well Written Narratives Anchor Remembrance
This story is a well imagined telling of the power of memory to root us to time and place. The main characters of Mother Abigail, Winter, Margot and Gaelle are connected through a remembering of ancestors and the collective strength of creating and sustaining places of comfort and safety. I was captivated by the characters' connections with each other and would definitely read more should the author continue with a series.
Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Mary D. (Claremont, CA)

Remembrance by Rita Woods
For a debut novel, this is outstanding! While I was initially expecting a more historical story about the Underground Railroad, this novel was more about the spiritualism and mysticism of three women, tied together by their 'powers' and history. The novel grabbed me before the end of the Prologue and didn't let go!

The writing is exquisite, the characters drawn expertly, flaws and good points equally prominent. One character in particular, Josiah, was so well detailed that I couldn't make up my mind as to whether he was a good person or a bad person, each set of qualities balancing the other. The sections involving the pursuits by slavers were fearful, well-detailed. I could feel the absolute fear people felt when hiding and when held by the slavers.

Even though I don't classify this as 'historical fiction' (too much mysticism and spiritual power play), it was an exciting, thoroughly engrossing read that I highly recommend to everyone. And I am really looking forward to any upcoming works by Rita Woods!
Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Leah L. (Lawrence, NY)

Layered, textured, engaging
Set in 3 different eras, Rita Woods' debut novel is a home run that deals with African American women of assorted ages in situations of flux and peril, including a female slave named Abigial who leaves behind during the revolution in Haiti everyone she loves in order to escort to safety her mistress. The unifying theme is a hidden stop on the underground railroad. Woods' character development is detailed to the point that these characters enter the reader's psyche and you think about them while putting the book down and even after finishing the book.
Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Mary L. (Greeley, CO)

History, mystery, and spirit
Spanning 1791 to the 21st century and from Haiti to New Orleans to Ohio, this story of the lives of three women, deepens one's understanding of the African American experience. Additionally, the mystery of spiritual power in Vodun (anglicized as Voodoo) intrigues a reader. The three women in the novel, so different from me, seemed to take me by the hand and show me their worlds. The book and the mysterious Josiah's words to the contemporary character, Gaelle, will stay with me. "How much more will you allow this world to take from you?"
Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Cam G. (Murrells Inlet, SC)

Leader of Remembrance, Mother Abigail, a truly special woman, built a sanctuary, called Remembrance for the runaway slaves on their flight to Freedom. This is a captivating story of living in freedom until "Slavers" invade their home, and wreak havoc on the their sanctuary, killing and destroying. The author, Rita Woods, has written an extremely good book, but one that was difficult for me to read.
Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Esther L. (Newtown, PA)

With thanks to BookBrowse for the opportunity to read and preview this remarkable book by first time author Dr Rita Woods. I have always loved the magic in novels by Isabel Allende and Alice Hoffman,so truly loved this story woven together by Rita Woods.
It follows young slave Abigail from Haiti in 1791 just growing into her powers as the island erupts in the slave rebellion. In New Orleans 1857,18 year old slave Margot,losing her promised freedom,escapes to the dream of Mother Abigail's Remembrance sanctuary. In present day Ohio,nursing home aide Gaelle is caring for Winter,Mother Abigail's successor, as her own powers are discovered.
The characters and their stories are beautifully written and weave an amazing story. I highly recommend Remembrance. On a personal note though...the description of being able to taste the vomit at the back of her throat was a bit overused!
Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Barbara P. (Hixson, TN)

This ended up not being the book that I expected. It was more about the "voodoo" beliefs that transcended over time rather than the history of the native Haitians. At times I was enthralled with the story and at other times I thought the story dragged. I loved the authors prose and would be interested in reading other novels she has written or will write.
Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Patricia L. (Seward, AK)

Remembrance: place and time
Remembrance is both a place and a remembrance of time passed. Bouncing between the mid 1800's to the present, Remembrance, the book, is the voice of slaves and their heirs, as they live their lives within the confines of slavery and what has become for many a similarly oppressive environment in today's world. The place is a safe haven for slaves where they can live unfettered by the "blancs" who harass, intimidate and brutalize them in every other time and place. Remembrance is a place where life is lived as it should be. To get there is a mystery that includes the good fortune to meet a few trusted souls and then be led on the Underground Railroad to peace and tranquility…or is it a destiny? Woods creates real characters who are believable even as they preform magical feats that serve to allow Remembrance to be accepted as a safe haven. There are even a few humorous exchanges in dialog that lighten the atmosphere and make the characters human.
This book is recommended for those who wish to gain a greater understanding of slavery and the open wound that continues to fester for many. Slightly wordy but worth the effort.
Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Judy G. (Carmel, IN)

Remembrance--of the central fire
I would give this book a 4.5 rating if I was able to do so. Very enjoyable and engaging read.The necessary description of tragedy experienced by slaves seeking freedom was overcome entirely in the moment by the community scene at the central fire in Remembrance.Those most likely to enjoy the book are readers "willing to suspend their disbelief" in order to soak up and hold onto the magic of this writer's storytelling skills. Those readers can't help but become enchanted in a story that so rarely has warm, memorable outcomes. I believe there will always be havens like Remembrance as long as we close our eyes and remember our dreams.
Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Nancy D. (Raleigh, NC)

Remembrance by Rita Woods is the story of slavery and four women connected through generations. All four ladies at some point feel hate and anger, and how they deal with these emotions and where this anger leads them is a study in their strength and reliance. Gaelle turns her anger toward something different and perhaps evil. Margot turns her emotions toward something constructive. Winter knows that she is different and when the safety of all that she loves becomes jeopardized, she realizes her real potential. Mother Abigail and her friend Josiah, are the thread holding everyone together through a mixture of spirituality and mysticism. In the end, each woman learns that her strengthens, weaknesses, hate, anger and love all go into making her the woman she becomes and a survivor.
Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by John W. (Saint Louis, MO)

Can't Wait for the Sequel
I really enjoyed the book and found it well written. The author has that unique gift of describing the location and events where the reader can visually imagine themselves part of the story. While I greatly enjoyed the book, I found the description of the book a little misleading – I was expecting a historical fictional story. I appreciated learning more about life in Haiti and New Orleans in the 1700s during the time of slavery.
Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Amber H. (Asheville, NC)

Wonderful Story!
I really enjoyed this book. The story was well written and kept me engaged. The descriptions of location and characters were beautiful. I also appreciated learning more about the experiences of slaves, including the history going back to Haiti in 1700s.
There were some details of each character that I found a little hard to follow at the beginning. I found myself going back to previous chapters to re-read the details.
Overall, I think this is a wonderful book and recommend it others!
Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Terrie J. (Eagan, MN)

Interesting plot around slavery
This was a really interesting novel, It took a horrible piece of our history (slavery) and built a plot around a place that slaves could go to be free. It was well written, following different characters in different time periods. The characters were vividly described and it was easy to follow which character and time period the book was describing. It was nice to think that a place like Remembrance could have existed to allow slaves some freedom once they escaped from their slavers. It provided a bit of hope. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a combination of history, fiction and character development.
Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Cynthia S. (Rensselaer, NY)

This book took me a while to keep the characters straight and how they relate to each other. I especially liked the characters of Mother Abigail, Winter and the young slaver Dix. Book clubs could have some interesting and lively discussions of the many characters the "gifts" and of Remembrance itself. The some of the scenes are very vivid.
Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Catherine H. (Barnegat, NJ)

Remembrance by Rita Woods, the historical fiction exposing the human conditions of slavery in America, tells the story of four women. Set over the course of time from 1791 to current day, from Haiti and New Orleans to Cleveland, the characters learn the Art of listening to the spirits of their ancestors. Each one has an ancient spiritual gift that gives value to her life and the destiny of her people. The lives of these characters are woven together like a tight cornrow braid, starting at the roots with Abigail a Haitian slave brought to America. But, can a series of events in the Mystical Sanctuary of Remembrance unravel this inviolable weave?

The strong points of this story are the portrayal of the humanity of enslaved people. A story of hope, faith and redemption. Compared to the works of Toni Morrison, I felt the lack of rhythm in the narrative made the flow, of a very important message, difficult to become fully immersed in.

I am currently reading The Water Dancer by Ta Nehisi Coates, so I would definitely add Remembrance to your list of books with this theme of a world between worlds where magical forces overcome a reality of inhumanity and brutality.
Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Mary G. (Lawrenceville, NJ)

Retired Elementary School Teacher
Remembrance is an interesting alternative to the tragic history of slavery and slave hunters. The book spans over several centuries into present day. Beginning with the slave country of Haiti and the decades before the slave rebellion there. I think the topic of slavery is a very sensitive one and this is reflected in the book by the way some slave holders treated their slaves in a somewhat humane manner, while others were extremely cruel. Also how the concept of slavery, once fully understood, could change a slave hunter into a slaves' friend.

I liked the book, I thought it was interesting concept how it tied scientific theories into the plot. The idea of a perfect Eden for ex-slaves as an idealistic community, a bypass of the underground railroad. A community that is under the direction of an "Omnipotent Mother". A self sufficient community with little connections to the outside world, other than the Abolitionist, Quaker Mary. A perfect protected Eden, until the boundaries to the outside world are compromised.

The main characters were unique in that they possessed hidden and sometimes latent mystical powers and voodoo. The book was a little confusing at times how the chapters went from character to character though the different centuries. The characters and events seemed to blend together through the centuries in time and space. As I continued reading, the chapters narrowed to focus on three main characters. I also felt the chapters were redundant in some ways going from one character to another in order to retell events from each characters prospective.

I think this book would raise many interesting discussions for any book group. Discussions could range from the Slave Rebellion in Haiti, Abolitionists movement, runaway slaves and the slave hunters, Voodoo and mysticism practices.

Similar book of interest:
Isabel Allende, Island Beneath the Sea. About the slave rebellion in Haiti.
Susan Monk-Kidd, The Invention of Wings
Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Laura G. (Buffalo, NY)

The premise of this book really intrigued me and the writing reeled me in immediately. Unfortunately, in spite of beautifully descriptive writing, the plot was not to my liking. I was very excited to read about 3 different historical periods and how the author would tie them together. The book however is not the historical fiction I imagined but a mystic fantasy with very little in the way of tying it all together in the end. I read to the end wondering how it would work and even imagined a few ways it might have but was sorely disappointed. There were many loose ends that didn't need to be.
Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Joane W. (Berlin, MD)

Rememberance is a book of magical properties, heroines, freedom, fantasy and a little tragedy. I enjoyed this book but found that going back and forth thru the years was somewhat confusing.
Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Lynne Z. (San Francisco, CA)

Mixed Review
It took me a long time to finish Remembrance, and I'm not sure why. In the end, I thought it was too long and could have used more editing. I liked the interconnected stories, especially those between Margot and Winter, and thought that the author wrote lovely descriptions of places - Haiti, New Orleans and Remembrance. The scenes with the slavers were so intense. Frank and Colm could definitely be the cause of bad dreams. Mysticism and magic usually bother me, and I often have a hard time relating (e.g. Colson Whitehead's, The Underground Railroad.) However, it seemed to work, for the most part, in this book. The ending wasn't satisfying to me. I'm not sure I really understood Josiah. I would have liked to have known more about Gaelle - she didn't seem well-developed. Upon reflection I would give this book a 3.5.
Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Debra L. (Deerfield, IL)

Not Exciting
This book was just an average story about slavery. I wanted more about the magical place "remembrance". I wanted more description about the people who lived there and the spirit world that created this safe place. That would have made this book different and more interesting.
Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Jane H. (Prospect, KY)

I REALLY wanted to like this book. But 240 pages into it, I really didn't care what happened to anyone I was reading about. I was into the first part of the book but when they crossed over into the imaginary world of Remembrance, they just lost me. It's a compelling enough story on its own, why insert fantasy into the mix?
Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Judi R. (Jericho, NY)

Another approach to history
I was expecting to read an historical novel but instead found that Remembrance was more a mystical adventure story about slavery and the Underground Railroad. What I liked was the location which was a very new approach for me. I found myself in Haiti and for a short time in New Orleans during the time of slavery. The author beautifully described the setting in each location bringing the sights, smells and sounds to life. But unfortunately for me, the story took a turn to a more unrealistic narrative employing spirits and conjuring. There were several timelines and for a while I couldn't see how the author was going to bring them together but in the end I think she did a satisfactory job. I liked the beginning and the end but the middle of the book, on a tangent I didn't expect, and don't usually like, was a disappointment for me. If you approach this more as a magical enterprise with historic overtones, it might be what you're looking for.
Rated 2 of 5 of 5 by Mary S. (Hilton Head Island, SC)

Wanted To Like It, But---
The author writes well and clearly has a story in mind, but I found her message hard to follow. The history of Afro-American culture was interesting, but had no real purpose as far as I could discern. Maybe the voodoo and black magic didn't appeal to me, but try as I might, I could not finish the book. One of the few stories in my experience that I could not finish. Sorry- can't recommend.
Rated 2 of 5 of 5 by Angela K. (Tiburon, CA)

Remembrance - Not For Me
I gave this title 75 pages, but it did not engage me as I had hoped because my "go-to" books are historical fiction. I love such stories as Underground Railroad and Orphan Train, but I did not think this novel was close to either of those books. The dialog was disjointed at the beginning and prose a bit too flowery. In the end, I needed to move on to another story.


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