By Leslie Lindsay
Gifts, glories, and gospels of generational legacies spanning time, race, and more in THE REVISIONERS.
~WeekEND Reading: Spotlight~
A New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the Year
Just how much our past is woven into our present? That’s the question Margaret Wilkerson Sexton’s asks in THE REVISIONERS (Counterpoint, 2019). Told in a trifurcated timeline from a first person POV–1924, 2017, and 1855–but focusing on one family and several strong women, this is a tale of generational legacies, healing, traditions, motherhood, prejudices, and a dash of magical realism.
Set in New Orleans 2017, Ava and her teenage son, King, are living with Ava’s white, wealthy grandmother, Martha, serving as her companion/caretaker. Ava–a single mother and recently laid-off–is paid for her service to her grandmother and saving up so she and her son can leave and have a home of their own. But Martha’s behavior soon becomes erratic, then threatening and Ava must leave before her story–and that of an ancestor she never knew–Josephine–collide.
“Sexton takes on [Toni Morrison’s artful invocation of the ghost] in her new novel The Revisioners. . . She writes with such a clear sense of place and time that each of these intermingled stories feels essential and dramatic in its own way.”
—Ron Charles, The Washington Post
Josephine’s tale is told in a two parts: 1855 when she was a young slave girl on the Wildwood Plantation, and also in 1924 as an older, freed woman living a simple life in a cozy home she keeps neat as a pin. Josephine is befriended by a white, lonely, younger woman, Charlotte, who is struggling with fertility. It’s a reluctant friendship at first–can two women with different colored skin be friends? How about if that friendship spans generations? But Josephine is known as a sort of magical doula/midwife and perhaps she can help Charlotte become ‘in the family way?’ Still, Charlotte has demons of her own–and a backstory that might threaten her relationship with Josephine.
At its heart, THE REVISIONERS explores the depths of women’s friendships–marginalized, powerful women, healers, ‘seers,’ and survivors. It’s about mothers and their strong connections to their children (male children, too), and the dangers that upend those bonds (religion, community, marriage, geographical distance), and more. It’s about culture and race, and unjust circumstances; and ultimately, THE REVISIONERS ponders generational legacies, the endurance of hope, the promise of freedom–of thought, of action, of speech.
I felt a great sense of empathy and desire to ‘right the wrongs’ of past injustices. A powerful read that was well-researched and realized.
Artistic photo of book cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram for more bookish photos like this @leslielindsay1
For more information, to connect with Margaret Wilkerson Sexton via social media, or to purchase a copy of THE REVISIONERS, please visit:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Born and raised in New Orleans, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton studied creative writing at Dartmouth College and law at UC Berkeley. Her debut novel, A Kind of Freedom, was a 2017 National Book Award Nominee, a New York Times Notable Book of 2017 and a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice. Her work has been published in The New York Times Book Review, Oprah.com, Lenny Letter, The Massachusetts Review, Grey Sparrow Journal, and other publications. She lives in the Bay Area, California, with her family.
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Leslie Lindsay is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012). Her work has been published in Pithead Chapel, Common Ground Review, Cleaver Magazine (craft and CNF), The Awakenings Review, The Nervous Breakdown, Ruminate’s The Waking, Brave Voices Literary Magazine, Manifest-Station, and others. Her cover art will be featured on Up the Staircase Quarterly in May 2020, and the 2nd edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA will be available this spring. Leslie has been awarded one of the top 1% reviewers on GoodReads and recognized by Jane Friedman as one of the most influential book reviewers. Since 2013, Leslie has interviewed over 700 bestselling and debut authors on her author interview series. Follow her bookstagram posts @leslielindsay1.
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[Cover and author image retrieved from author’s website. Artistic photo of book cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram for more bookish photos like this @leslielindsay1]