Tag Archives: California

Review: Parable of the Sower

Parable of the Sower

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.

Source: Purchased
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: California

By Edan Lepucki
(Little, Brown and Company, Hardcover, 9780316250818, July 2014, 400pp.)

*No Spoilers*

The Short of It:

In a post-apocalyptic world, is there safety in numbers?

The Rest of It:

The story in California takes place several years after the world has gone to hell. Cal and Frida leave the ruins of Los Angeles to make a life for themselves in the forest. The city has become too dangerous for them and with resources being as scarce as they are, the forest seems like the only reasonable option.

But they are not alone in the forest. Close to them, is a family that helps them and provides the much-needed interaction that Frida craves, but when Frida hints at wanting to know what is outside of their immediate circle, she’s basically told to stop thinking about it. This doesn’t sit well with Frida. Especially since she feels that her husband Cal, knows who is out there and is keeping the information from her. To further complicate the matter,  Frida believes that she might be pregnant, which forces her to consider her options.

I live in California so this book had obvious appeal to me, even without the whole Colbert/Indie bookstore buzz. But I must tell you, as readable as it was, it missed some key elements to really make it a success in my eyes:

  • I didn’t care about the characters. I don’t need to like them, but I need to care about what happens to them.
  • Too much build-up over Frida and whether or not she was pregnant.
  • The secrecy of everything was overplayed. Big time.
  • It wasn’t clear to me who was good and who was bad. You’ve gotta have people to root for and they all seemed a little sketchy.

Surprisingly, I wasn’t bothered by the ending which is what everyone seems to talk about. I wasn’t surprised or miffed or even curious because I didn’t care about the characters or what happened to them. ANYTHING could have happened and I would have been fine with it. I wanted to feel something for these characters but they were either too weak, too secretive, or their motives were unclear.

I know this all sounds very negative but I do think Lepucki captured the isolation of the early days, pretty well. When you are living in what could be the end of days as you know them, you must have hope or things get bleak pretty quick. I liked the story best when it was just Cal and Frida. They don’t entirely trust one another, which makes their marriage rather unique but Cal seems cautiously hopeful about the possibility of a child.

That cautious optimism was enough to keep me reading but then something happened.

The story took a turn and then I was like, what just happened? I thought the story was going one way, and then it went a totally different way. Not necessarily a bad way. I was still curious at this point but then the characters got all weird and their motivation seemed weird too and I suddenly had no patience for any of them.

Does it deserve the hype? Not really. Was it an interesting story? Yes. Is it book club worthy? Could be. There is a lot to consider. Is it better to be isolated or part of a community? When the world is ending, is procreation important or is it a bad idea to bring a child into a world without hope? I am a huge fan of The Walking Dead and when baby Judith was born, I was like… what in God’s name were you thinking? But at the same time, if you don’t populate the earth, eventually everyone will die out, right? So, this is an important question to ask but I am not sure it’s fully explored in the book.

I don’t know if the author has any plans to write additional books with these characters but if she does, then that may explain why some of it felt half-developed. If she does come out with another book as a continuation of this one, I’d read it just to see where she goes with it.

In the end, it was an okay read but it was fun to discuss with other bloggers.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.