Add this one to the list of books I wish I’d read in my teens rather than a butt load of Stephen King. Octavia Butler’s frighteningly prescient dystopian novel needs to be added to every high school curriculum. It is a story of economic and societal collapse, climate disaster and survival in the face of unspeakable pain and loss. It’s a difficult read but none of the horrors feel gratuitous. It comes with many trigger warnings; rape, harm to children, harm to animals and fires.
The book starts in 2025 when we meet fifteen year old Lauren Olamina who lives in a small walled-in community in California. Though they lack many of the comforts of our own modern life they are considered lucky living behind their walls with enough to eat and a roof over their head. Life outside the walls is precarious and ugly. Lauren has discovered her own religion which she names Earthseed, the basic concept of which is that the only ruling force in the universe change and that one can either be as prepared as possible to roll with it or be rolled over by it. She is also keenly aware that the safety and security of her small community cannot be maintained as those outside its walls grow more desperate. She intends to be as ready for it has she can be when the inevitable disaster comes.
Lauren has an intelligence and maturity that never feels precocious or unearned. She is simply a keen observer of the world around her. The violence on the page is stark and matter of fact but never lingered upon too long. In the world of Parable of the Sower stopping to long can get you killed. Though the book begins only 4 years from now, the world it portrays is terrifyingly plausible. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a bug out back to pack.
Note: I highly recommend listening to the Octavia’s Parables podcast hosted by adrienne maree brown and Toshi Reagon while reading this book. They take a deep dive into each chapter and ask the reader pertinent questions. The entirety of Parable of the Sower is now available to download and they will be starting on the sequel, Parable of the Talents in February of 2021.