Parable of the Sower
By Octavia E. Butler
Grand Central Publishing, 9781538732182, (1993) 2019, 368pp.
The Short of It:
The California that Butler writes about in this 1993 novel is in essence where California is headed towards today.
The Rest of It:
The story takes place in the early 2020’s. Much of California is a wasteland, depleted of resources and occupied by bands of thieves who are addicted to a drug called Pyro. This drug makes them want to burn down everything around them, including innocent people taking shelter for the night.
Lauren Olamina is only 15-years-old but has witnessed some horrible things. She, along with her family are the lucky ones. They live in a gated community with other families who support and protect one another when they can. But anytime anyone in the community leaves the protection of those gates, no one knows if they will ever make it back because it’s bad out there. A simple trip for supplies is never simple when desperate people want what you have. Even within the gates, each night they are subjected to thieves jumping the wall to pillage and destroy. Lauren, at such a young age is taught to shoot and yes, to kill. The only catch is that Lauren is a “sharer”. She suffers from an illness of empathy and can feel the pain and pleasure of others. There are few like her, but when she chooses to shoot someone she has to be sure because she could end up crippled by their pain if she doesn’t kill them outright.
Nothing lasts forever. Lauren is eventually forced to leave the safety of her community and hooks up with others also looking to survive. Her plan is to start a new community once she finds the right place. If you are familiar with the Bible at all, you will recognize the title choice for this book. The Parable of the Sower is all about planting seeds. Some take, others don’t. What survives are the plants with deep roots. In this case, trusting one another and putting your life on the line to protect someone you hardly know for the sake of community is how such a community will survive.
This was a very hard book to read during this pandemic. The pace is a little slow and the writing is the type that you must sit with for awhile. Reading about a California that has been decimated by climate change and seeing how its inhabitants deal with the lack of water and other resources was a tad depressing but also eye-opening. Butler always seems to know what’s coming and she didn’t hold back here. California is walking a fine line. We are battling drought, brush fires that force our power grids to shutdown as a preventative measure, increased poverty and homelessness. NOT to mention what the rest of the country is battling right now, the pandemic. Chilling.
Parable of the Sower is a worthwhile read. Just know that if you read it now, it might take some time to get through and might send you into a downward spiral temporarily but I enjoyed the writing quite a bit.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.