Linda Spalding joins us to celebrate the publication of A Reckoning, a sweeping historical epic of slavery, emancipation, and the American west.
“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. For one thing, it is the story of families—for another, it was written over the politics of slavery. Riverboats, rutted forest roads, slave catchers, con men, sick mules, broken axles, lost children. There is something of Mark Twain in this telling and something of Willa Cather, a narrative as ingenious in its mix of points of view as Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying and full of enough to keep anyone turning pages. And at the heart of it is the portrait of a remarkably strong woman and a painfully rich portrait of a marriage and a family.” —Robert Hass
About A Reckoning:
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.
About Linda Spalding:
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.