I had heard so many good things about this book that I decided to put a hold on it at my library back at the beginning of Bingo 2022. Like the characters in the novel, this book must have been on a journey, because I never heard from my library, and after Bingo, I forgot about it. In February 2023, a voice mail saying my hold book was ready for pick up left me slightly perplexed. Upon retrieving it, I found A Psalm for the Wild Built had finally found its way to me.
This is a charming little tale that takes place in a world called Panga, where robots had once served people. When the robots achieved sentience, they went on their way, leaving humans with the understanding that they would check in on them from time to time but would otherwise leave each other alone. In this world, a monk named Sibling Dex has had enough of living in the city and wishes to become a tea monk, bringing tea and comfort to those who need them (both tea and comfort, but mostly the latter). This calling satisfies Dex for a time, but they soon grow restless and want to take a break from tea and travel deeper into the wilderness. On this journey, they meet Splendid Speckled Mosscap, a robot. This is the first encounter between a robot and a human since they separated, so it’s a pretty momentous occasion. Mosscap wants to know what people need, and Dex reluctantly agrees to help, though the answer eludes them as well.
I think of this book as a fable about understanding one’s place in the world. As humans, we are cursed with minds that make us ask the unknowable question, “What is my purpose?” I’m going to cut to the chase and tell you Mosscap’s answer: You have no purpose, and that’s ok. I wouldn’t normally do this in a review, but I’m jumping all the way to page 138 out of 147, because even if you never read this book, you need to hear this truth: “You keep asking why your work is not enough, and I don’t know how to answer that, because it is enough to exist in the world and marvel at it. You don’t need to justify that, or earn it. You are allowed to just live.”
Is there anyone who hasn’t despaired at not finding their purpose? Been depressed that they have a “job” and not a “calling”? It’s ok, really. It’s ok. If that isn’t a warm blanket and a cup of hot cocoa on a bitter-cold day, I don’t know what is.