The New York Times

Airborne

“Washington Black”

By Esi Edugyan

334 pages. Alfred A. Knopf. $26.95

When the novel “Washington Black” opens, it is 1830 and the young George Washington Black, who narrates his own story, is a slave on a Barbados sugar plantation called Faith, protected, or at least watched over, by an older woman, Big Kit. As a new master takes charge, the fear is palpable. The accounts of murders and punishments and random cruelties are chilling and unsparing. Big Kit can see no way out except death: “Death was a door. I think that is what she wished me to understand. She did not fear it. She was of an ancient faith rooted in the high river lands of Africa, and in that faith the dead were reborn, whole, back in their

This article originally appeared in .

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The New York Times

The New York Times6 min read
J.D. Salinger, E-Book Holdout, Joins the Digital Revolution
“The Catcher in the Rye” and other Salinger novels are coming out in digital formats, and the writer’s son plans to release more from his archives.
The New York Times2 min read
4 Books For A Better Understanding Of The Border
(Newsbook) When it comes to writing about border towns like El Paso, Texas, where 22 people were killed in a mass shooting Saturday, “there always seems to be something that’s a little bit off about how it’s depicted,” novelist Oscar Cásares said. “I
The New York Times7 min read
A Pop-Culture Glossary for 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood'
Quentin Tarantino’s film is filled with references to TV shows, movies and other totems of midcentury Los Angeles. We explain who’s who and what’s what.