Writing reviews for CBR is not easy. I can’t just relax and read something. I read books with the upcoming review in mind, analysing their building blocks, paying attention to details, overthinking them. As a result, I sometimes finish them and -unless I straight out loved a book- have no idea how I felt about them. Did the story touch me? Did it make me think? Would I recommend it to others? When that happens, I like to go on Goodreads and read other people’s reviews to see if someone put down in words what is too diffuse for me to grasp.
With Parable of the Sower, my Goodreads search was fruitless. I, unlike many others, didn’t love the book. I absolutely didn’t hate it. But it’s also unfair to say that it was just ok, because the elements it contains that made me get the book in the first place did not disappoint me. It sounded very similar to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Set in the future. Dystopian.
Parable of the Sower tells the tale of Lauren, a teenager who has to leave her walled-in community and her family when it gets burned down, and venture out into an American society that has fallen into chaos, in search of a better life. Poor, homeless people steal, kill, rape. Some of it they do to survive, some of it just because they can. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, but there are slivers of hope. One of them, Lauren’s religion which she founds herself and which inspires others, even if reluctantly at first.
Butler’s language is not particularly embellished by vivid descriptions of places, events or people. It is quite dry. This contributes to an overall bleak, unpleasant and unnerving tone that matches the subject matter perfectly. There is never a dull moment for Lauren and her friends in what is essentially the road trip from hell. Butler builds up tension easily and often enough to keep readers on their toes. It’s hard to share whatever optimism the lead characters are feeling, or trying to feel, but you root for them despite their edges and their sometimes questionable choices.
It’s not so difficult to imagine a society in ruins like the one Butler describes. There are, in fact, many who see a connection between the way American society is today and this fictional counterpart. There are definitely certain trends, not just in USA but in most – if not all – developed countries, that Butler takes and builds upon. Although the book was written in the early nineties, the signs are there: global warming, cutbacks in social welfare and education, the increasing gap between the rich and the poor, just to name a few.
Maybe I didn’t love this book as much as I had hoped I would, but it was certainly worth reading if only because it provided me with some food for thought.