Book Review: Running to Fall: A Novel
Publication Date: Nov 01, 2022
List Price: $18.95
Format: Paperback, 334 pages
Imprint: AALBC Aspire
Publisher: African American Literature Book Club
Parent Company: AALBC.com, LLC
Book Reviewed by Publishers Weekly’s Booklife
Buckhanon (Speaking of Summer) reveals the emotional complexity behind the facade of upward mobility for young Black women in this tense novel of suburban dysphoria. Tragedy Powell and her successful podcaster husband Victor have moved to the insulated, upscale Chicago-area suburb of Grayson, trying to fit in despite how few other people of color reside there. When the body of missing nineteen-year-old Raven McCoy washes up in the Grayson River, Tragedy feels haunted by her ghost, and by the echoes of her own traumatic past. Though Tragedy knows she needs to reckon with her supposedly secret drinking problem, the stress in her relationship with Victor’s ex and daughter, and her limited social life make resolve hard to find.
Buckhanon’s weaving of thriller elements into a literary novel works beautifully, especially early on, as the focus on how the investigation into Raven’s death impacts Tragedy, as one of the few Black residents, positions the story arc about Tragedy’s drinking as secondary, until it slowly takes center stage. Tragedy is a complex, relatable, and empathetic character, and though some of the cast can come across as stylized, this increases the impression of Tragedy’s self-centeredness—we know them through her perspective. The dramatic contrast between Victor’s daughter Joy, who is willing to use stereotypes of Black urban men to get what she wants, and the history that Tragedy imagines she shares with Raven, makes for resonant commentary on the interaction of class and race.
The pacing is literary-thoughtful, often giving the impression that information is being intentionally held back. Descriptions of the high-end rehab program “Clean Me” and descriptions of high-end Grayson are amusingly over the top, leavening the often dark material. Readers interested in the challenges Black women face in suburban America and in drinking narratives that are not overly redemptive will appreciate this polished, insightful novel.
Takeaway: A resonant novel about Blackness in a ritzy suburb—and a mystery.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A