Packer has a forthcoming novel, The Thousands, from which this is presumably an excerpt. (She doesn’t say this explicitly in the Q&A, but the new novel is set during Reconstruction, as this story is.) It doesn’t really begin and it doesn’t really end, so even though it’s exciting and well written, it doesn’t stand alone as a story.
Lazarus and Mary Celeste, his deaf sister, emancipated slaves, are running away from Miss Thalia, their former owner, who seems not to care that slavery has ended. She sets her man Kittredge and his dogs on their trail, and Lazarus is severely injured fighting one of the dogs. Eventually they make it to New Orleans and find their Aunt Minnie, who’s got seven other children to deal with. “‘Nine goddam children,’ she said to the dark. It was neither a curse nor a lament but a pledge.”
Okay. They made it to New Orleans. Now what?
June 14 & 21:“Dayward” by ZZ Packer
[available online only to subscribers but here’s a Q&A with ZZ Packer]