Remembrance… It’s a rumor, a whisper passed in the fields and veiled behind sheets of laundry. A hidden stop on the underground road to freedom, a safe haven protected by more than secrecy…if you can make it there.
Ohio, present day. An elderly woman who is more than she seems warns against rising racism as a young woman grapples with her life.
Haiti, 1791, on the brink of revolution. When the slave Abigail is forced from her children to take her mistress to safety, she discovers New Orleans has its own powers.
1857 New Orleans—a city of unrest: Following tragedy, house girl Margot is sold just before her 18th birthday and her promised freedom. Desperate, she escapes and chases a whisper…
Preview an excerpt from Remembrance, the breakout historical debut from author Rita Woods—available January 21, 2020 from Forge Books.
“Grandmere?” Margot hissed into the darkness. “Grandmere, es tu ici?”
From somewhere deep in the gloom, where the grass dissolved into bayou, a cougar screamed. Margot flinched.
Their cabin sat on a slight rise, connected to the main house by a stone walkway, and though her grandmother was an early riser, the house was dark. In the other direction, the walkway led to the creek. Growling in frustration, Margot turned toward the creek. In the shifting light, something brushed across her face and she swatted frantically.
“Nom de Dieu, Margot,” she murmured. “Get hold of yourself.”
The walkway was cool beneath her bare feet and she moved slowly in the dim light. She rounded a bend, and there on the creek bank loomed the old hickory tree, a lantern flickering at its base. But her grandmother was nowhere to be seen.
A thick mist rose from the dew-covered grass. Moss, hanging from the tree branches that leaned far out over the creek, quivered in the slow-moving water.
“Grandmere?” Her voice bounced from tree to tree, then dis.appeared in the fog.
A figure moved in the shadows down at the creek’s edge, and she stiffened. Moments later her grandmother stepped into the small circle of light cast by the lantern. Her nightdress was soaked and muddy all the way to the knees, her square face scratched and bloodied.
“Holy Mary, Mother of God,” whispered Margot.
The old woman stared blankly into the trees and Margot rushed to her side. She flung her arms around Grandmere and tried to guide her back up the walkway toward the house. But though her grand.mother was well into her seventies and a head shorter, she was strong and solidly muscled. It was like pushing against a tree.
Margot glanced at the sky. It would be light before long, and Veronique would wake and find herself alone. Her sister had an unreasoned fear of being left alone. Margot pushed harder.
“For the love of God, chére. What are you doing? Do I look like a wheelbarrow to you? Stop pushing on me.” Her grandmother was squinting at her in irritation.
Margot dropped her arms. “What am I doing?” She glared at Grand-mere. “What are you doing out here in the middle of the night, vielle dame? And look at you.”
Grandmere glanced down and grunted, seemingly surprised by the mud caked on the hem of her nightdress. “Ah.”
She picked up the lantern and turned toward the cabin.
“Hush, chére,” snapped Grandmere. She grabbed hold of Margot’s hand. “The spirits called my name.”
Margot felt the hairs stand up on her arms.
Her grandmother spoke to the spirits often—as often as she spoke to her and Veronique. Each morning, Grandmere lit a candle and whispered her prayers. Each night she did the same. On holidays, she saved a bit of the choicest meat and the richest cream as an offering to the ghosts of the ancestors. The Hannigans knew and left her to it. At least the mistress did. But the master… well that was a different matter.
But when she began to wander—when Margot would wake to find her grandmother gone in the middle of the night, or worse—missing for one whole day, or more—then Margot grew terrified. For it was at those times, few and far between, that Grandmere said the spirits were calling especially to her, had come to whisper their warnings.
The feeling of dread that had weighed on Margot since they’d arrived grew heavier, making it hard to catch her breath. Grandmere was watching her.
“Come,” she said. “Your sister will wake soon. The fireplaces all need cleaning and the linens got to be laid in the sun to freshen.” She sucked her teeth.
“And that kitchen garden’s a mess. I’ll get to working on that, then make us some sweet potato biscuits for supper.” She smiled. “You and your sister can grow fat as me, oui?”
Margot resisted being pulled along. “Grandmere, you promised Master Hannigan…”
Her grandmother whirled. “Master Hannigan does not control the spirits, girl! He does not control the world of gods.”
“But he controls this world, Grandmere. The one we live in every day. You might remind your spirits of this when they come whispering in your ear late at night.”
Grandmere reared back, the air quivering hotly between them. For one long moment Margot thought her grandmother might strike her.
“Master Hannigan is spit in the ocean, Margot,” said Grandmere finally. “In fifty years, a hundred, who will know his name? But the ancient ones, they will still rule the ways of the world.”
The old woman turned and stomped away, leaving Margot alone in the shadows. By the time she arrived back at the cabin, her grand.mother stood waiting on the tiny porch. The two stared at each other.
“Chére,” said Grandmere finally. “I will not always be here like this for you and your sister. But when the world is black, when you think you are alone, the spirits, my spirit, will be with you, living in your heart. When you don’t know the answers, just listen. Quiet. And the answers will pour into your soul.”
She gazed up at the lightening sky and laughed bitterly. “They might not be the answers you want, but the spirits always answer.”
She turned and walked into the cabin, leaving Margot shivering on the threshold.
Excerpted from Remembrance, copyright © 2019 by Rita Woods