“Dayward” by ZZ Packer is a no frills story about a brother and sister who used to be slaves, and are fleeing the plantation for New Orleans after emancipation. This story felt labored to me. The characters spend a lot of time in their heads, remembering those loved ones who died, and recounting life as a slave. While the story is full of action, it’s boring action. The story starts with Lazarus (do you think allusions will be made?) and his sister Mary Celeste fleeing from the former overseer’s hounds. The rest of the story is a journey where Lazarus deals with his wounds and the mood is that of a fever dream. Nothing much happens.
Of the stories I’ve read from “20 Under 40,” “Dayward” has been the most pedestrian and unexciting. It feels like a story that teenagers would be forced to read in middle school. Nothing resonates.
For further reading, checkout the Q&A with ZZ Packer.