Rating: 4.5 of 5
Synopsis: “When unattended environmental and economic crises lead to social chaos, not even gated communities are safe. In a night of fire and death Lauren Olamina, a minister’s young daughter, loses her family and home and ventures out into the unprotected American landscape. But what begins as a flight for survival soon leads to something much more: a startling vision of human destiny… and the birth of a new faith.” (source)
My thoughts: My first time reading anything by Octavia Butler. What took me so long?!!
Parable of the Sower is a frightening depiction of civilization’s decline in the aftermath of environmental and economic crises. From page one I was ready for the worst, on edge the entire journey. The night Lauren’s home was invaded was horrific. Yet underneath the brutality was hope.
Lauren is now in my top five female protagonists in a post-apocalyptic / dystopian setting. Her hyperempathy intrigued me: the notion of being extremely sensitive to the feelings of others, to the point of bleeding if others are injured, has been one I’ve always wanted to see explored more often in fiction. Lauren is also exactly the kind of friend I would want: smart, straightforward, loyal unless you break her trust, rational, resourceful, and not overly sentimental or emotional.
The only aspect of the story with which I did not connect was Earthseed, the new religion that Lauren created. However, I respected her for sticking to her beliefs while at the same time building a community with the strangers she encountered on her mission. She didn’t force Earthseed on these newcomers but she also didn’t shy away from a discussion with naysayers.
Addresses (still) current issues like race, gender and class as well as the environment, privatization, and digitization. This book would be an excellent discussion starter. For example, I kept thinking about people of color who have already suffered in real life what the fictional Lauren and the people of her gated community experienced: their loved one leaving home for work or school to have them “vanish,” never seeing them again, never knowing what happened to them, having to assume they’d been killed… This is not a fun read but it’s fast-paced, filled with real people, and explores a world we should all take a closer look at. Especially given the 2016 presidential candidate who seems ripped from the pages of this story’s “government.”
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(Review cross-posted on LibraryThing and Goodreads.)