Kali's Reviews > Parable of the Sower

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
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's review
Oct 01, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: dystopia-apocalypse, literary-fiction, series
Read in October, 2009

The year is 2025, and it’s hard to believe that life anywhere on earth could get worse. Massive environmental disasters and unchecked socioeconomic decline have turned the once-prosperous United States into a third world country complete with every imaginable aspect of suffering that entails—government as good as nonexistent, jaded law enforcement, unemployment, poverty, starvation, gang violence. The only relatively safe havens are small communities that build barricades around their streets to protect themselves from the rampant crimes of theft, rape, and murder that lie outside their locked and barred gates. Lauren Olamina, teenage daughter of a Baptist minister, lives with her family in one such walled community in southern California. It’s a close-knit place for its day; the people don’t have much but they can afford to band together, trade supplies, and watch each other’s backs. Lauren, however, is convinced the relative comfort that the neighborhood walls provide won’t last. Things on the outside are getting worse and people are becoming more desperate with every passing year. There’s constant violence, extreme poverty, no water, not a job for miles. There’s even a new high-tech drug nicknamed “pyro” for the arsonist urge it compels in those who abuse it. Lauren is determined that when the time comes and the walls fail, she will be one to survive at any cost. It’s extraordinarily rare in Lauren’s world to meet an individual whose life has not been marred by suffering and loss, but Lauren has a personal philosophy that she calls Earthseed to get her through the pain-filled days. Instead of putting her trust in her father’s religion, Lauren’s God is the only constant in life: Change. Lauren records the discovery of her new faith along with the events of her life in a journal that provides the narrative format for Parable of the Sower. Reading the contents of Lauren’s diary is not always easy. The events of author Octavia E. Butler’s twenty-first century are more tragic than triumphant, but the reader has a reliable and capable narrator in young Lauren who, despite the horrors she endures, is always secure in her belief of a better future. Butler is a highly lauded author (and one of the few African Americans to receive a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant) who pens her tales with a direct simplicity and grace that is appealing and inviting to readers of all genres. This finely wrought warning of a very possible future continues in a compelling sequel, Parable of the Talents.

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