Zalika Reid-Benta is a Toronto-based writer whose debut story collection, Frying Plantain, won the Danuta Gleed Literary Award and the Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writer Prize for Literary Fiction. Frying Plantain was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, and it was shortlisted for the Toronto Book Award, the White Pine Award, and the Trillium Book Award. Zalika served as the 2021-2022 Writer in Residence at Western University and was the chair of the 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize. She received an M.F.A. in fiction from Columbia University, was a John Gardner Fiction Fellow at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and is an alumnus of the Banff Centre Writing Studio.
By Zalika Reid-Benta
Published by Penguin Canada (Penguin Random House Canada)
From the Giller-nominated author of Frying Plantain comes an exhilarating magical realist novel about a millennial Black woman who navigates her quarter-life-crisis while embarking on a quest through the streets of Toronto.
Alicia has been out of grad school for six months. She has no career prospects and lives with her mom, who won’t stop texting her macabre news stories and reminders to pick up items from the grocery store.
Then, one evening, the Jamaican water deity, River Mumma, appears to Alicia, telling her that she has twenty-four hours to scour the city for her missing comb.
Alicia doesn’t understand why River Mumma would choose her. She can’t remember all the legends her relatives told her, unlike her retail co-worker Heaven, who can reel off Jamaican folklore by heart. She doesn’t know if her childhood visions have returned, or why she feels a strange connection to her other co-worker Mars. But when the trio are chased down by malevolent spirits called duppies, they realize their tenuous bonds to each other may be their only lifelines. With the clock ticking, Alicia’s quest through the city broadens into a journey through time—to find herself and what the river carries.
River Mumma is a powerful portrayal of diasporic identities and a vital examination into ancestral ties. It is a homage to Jamaican storytelling by one of the most invigorating voices in Canadian literature.