by Anthony Conty (Parkville, MD): “Let Us Descend” by Jezmyn Ward requires a strong stomach, like most novels about slavery. The reader wants realism, then reads about rape and technical incest and wishes for less. The protagonist, Annis, takes us on a journey inspired by Dante’s Inferno when her Sire (father) cruelly sends her mother away.

“Magical Realism,” one of the suspicious genres assigned to this intense book by Goodreads, is my kryptonite. I get lost if I struggle to transition from the real to the fantastical. When Annis meets spirits, however, she thoroughly introduces us to them. Having a caring spiritual being with whom you could consult while going through the humiliating process of a slave market provides promise in an otherwise hopeless situation.

I watched a Jezmyn Ward interview on the Seth Meyers show in which he described this as an “easy read.” I needed several double-takes to comprehend everything. I simultaneously thought the action was a horrifying representation of slavery and that I did not know what was going on. I had a professor to help with “Inferno,” thankfully.

Still, you will enjoy Annis as she struggles to find creative ways to have freedom. Annis finds solutions despite her struggles, some of which are too late in the book to mention here. The author based this story on the journey process instead of a sequential plot or specific destination. Dante’s classic “Inferno” qualifies as the same quirky classification.

I read for the same reason I teach: I like “A-Ha” moments. This book had them, but you had to go a long time between them. It was a grueling experience. I wanted to like it more than I did, but my comprehension started to slip, which had a detrimental effect on my interest in the characters and the storyline.