In Reconstruction award-winning writer and musician Johnson digs into the lives of those trodden underfoot by the powers that be: from the lives of vampires and those caught in their circle in Hawai'i to a taxonomy of anger put together by Union soldiers in the American Civil War.
... a stylistically diverse collection animated by Johnson’s vivid, imaginative, and often brutal prose. Reconstruction is one of the strongest and most enjoyable collections I’ve read in some time; it’s a brilliant and uncomfortable constellation of ideas and absences knotted together ... I found Reconstruction haunting, not just for its vividness, but also for how Johnson writes around felt and imagined absences ... the collection as a whole feels timely, nowhere more so than in its title story ... It’s a superb story, blending historical realism with threads of speculation and magic, told in the voice of a character at once courageous and brimming over with bitterness. It’s the signature note of the entire collection – a willingness to look closely at the realities of resistance, to feel deeply the worries, fears, and complexities at every level of survival.
... it’s not hard to view these stories as a way of testing different waters, experimenting with genre boundaries, trying out different styles, forms, and themes. This is one reason I find first story collections so fascinating: they show us, intentionally or not, a writer in the process of working things out, of trying out voices and settings and protocols, of – as is clearly the case with Johnson – challenging herself in finding what’s comfortable and what seems risky ... Of particular interest, though, are the two original stories, 'The Mirages' and 'Reconstruction', each of which seems restrained compared to the coruscating imagery of some of the other tales, but which feature some of the most memorable characters of all ... 'Reconstruction' is narrated by a laundress and cook who accompanies the First South Carolina regiment ... It may be the least fantastic tale here, and it may be the best, featuring some of Johnson’s richest characters and a narrator whose voice achieves a genuine gravity of mourning. In addition, it makes a thoroughly compelling case for the importance of understanding and remembering the uses and varieties of anger
Johnson (Trouble the Saints) showcases her vision and craft in this powerful collection of speculative shorts ... Most of the nine subsequent stories feature capable women of color struggling against grim, unjust, and often violent sociopolitical structures ... Throughout, Johnson breaks down genre boundaries, combining elements of fantasy, mystery, science fiction, and horror, in settings ranging from the historical and familiar to the wildly imaginative. Unified by Johnson’s sensuous prose, these stories will delight existing fans and serve as an excellent introduction for those new to Johnson’s work.