Spotlight on “River Mumma” by Zalika Reid-Benta

by LitStack Editor

River Mumma is an exhilarating contemporary fantasy novel about a young Black woman who navigates her quarter-life-crisis while embarking on a mythical quest through the streets of Toronto.

River Mumma and author Zalika Reid-Benta

About River Mumma

Alicia has been out of grad school for 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.

Energetic and invigorating, River Mumma is a vibrant exploration of diasporic community and ancestral ties, and a homage to Jamaican storytelling by one of the most invigorating voices in today’s literature. 

ISBN-13: 9781645661351
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 2/20/2024
Source: Publisher


Praise for River Mumma

“…a blessing and Zalika Reid-Benta’s talent is a truly special gift. This is a quest novel that maps Jamaican folklore across modern-day Toronto; three young people are sent on a mission by a goddess and if that doesn’t pique your interest then something is very wrong with you.”—Victor LaValle, award-winning author of The Changeling

“Wholly original, remarkably crafted, and unmatched in voice, atmosphere, and action, River Mumma should be on every must-read list this season.”—Cherie Dimaline, bestselling author of Empire of Wild

“…the type of vivid, rich novel I love best. It left me turning pages and pondering possibilities well into the night.”—Alicia Elliott, bestselling author of A Mind Spread Out on the Ground

“A generational saga, a big-city survival narrative, a study of diasporic cultural nuances, all wrapped inside a thrilling adventure. Complex, deep and resonant, River Mumma is coming for your heart.”—Samit Basu, author of The City Inside

“…{A] love letter to culture, home, and coming of age—and will spark important, relevant book club conversations, too.”—Marissa Stapley, New York Times bestselling author of Lucky

“A fast-paced and absorbing adventure steeped in Caribbean folklore and mythology, …a treat for the senses.”—Uzma Jalaluddin, bestselling author of Ayesha at Last

“…a necessary book about race, gender, ancestry, colonialism, eco-existentialism, and desire.”—Jenny Heijun Wills, author of Older Sister. Not Necessarily Related

“A page-turner of a novel that is both funny and poignant, River Mumma magically and seamlessly weaves Jamaican folklore and myth with the winter landscape of Toronto to create a compelling fictional landscape.”—Shyam Selvadurai, author of Mansions of the Moon

“A powerful and evocative novel weaving threads of magical realism to create a powerful and moving tale about a search for identity. It is a journey–diasporic, ancestral, cultural, and personal–all coming together by the importance of storytelling by a master storyteller.”—Maurice Broaddus, award-nominated author of Sweep of Stars

About Zalika Reid-Benta, Author of River Mumma

River Mumma author Zalika Reid-Benta

Zalika Reid-Benta is a Canadian writer whose debut story collection, Frying Plantain, won several awards, and is a collection of linked short stories centering on the coming of age of Kara Davis, a young Jamaican-Canadian girl growing up in the Eglinton West neighborhood of Toronto. Her debut novel, River Mumma, is a “magical realist story” inspired by Jamaican folklore. The main character, Alicia Gale, is a young Black woman having a quarter-life crisis, while adventuring through the streets of Toronto, Ontario. Zalika carries an MFA 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. 

You can find and follow Zalika Reid-Benta on Instagram, LinkedIn, and on X (formerly Twitter).

Titles by Zalika Reid-Benta


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