cover image Acts of Forgiveness

Acts of Forgiveness

Maura Cheeks. Ballantine, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-0-593-59829-0

In Cheeks’s engrossing debut, a Black family faces financial hardships and debates the merits of a new reparations program. After a promising start as a reporter in New York City, Willie Revel reluctantly returns to Philadelphia to help her father, Max, with the family’s construction business and moves into the house hers parents proudly bought many years ago as the first Black family in their neighborhood. As the years pass, she gets pregnant from a one-night stand, raises her daughter, Paloma, and tries to help fix the company’s various financial setbacks. Meanwhile, her former mentor Elizabeth Johnson, a descendant of President Andrew Johnson, becomes a U.S. senator and then president. Hoping to reverse the damage done by her ancestor, who throttled Reconstruction, Johnson signs into law the controversial Forgiveness Act, which calls for the U.S. government to pay reparations to those who can prove their ancestors were enslaved. Max, desperate to save his business and long distrustful of the government, enters into a construction project with a vocal opponent of the act and considers selling the family home, prompting Willie to unearth their family history in hopes of securing reparation payments, even as a research trip leaves Paloma feeling abandoned. Cheeks seamlessly threads the themes of resentment, forgiveness, and legacy through the multilayered narrative. Readers will be moved. Agent: Stephanie Delman, Trellis Literary. (Feb.)