Review: Parable of the Sower

Parable of the Sower
Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I thought I had read this book back in college. At the time I had thought it so-so…lots of mumbo jumbo about God and what not. I read it again this month for our book club and I can say I have not read this before. If I had, I would have remembered sitting up all night unable to sleep.

The world in PotS is a couple of steps to the side of us, closer to a probable dystopian future. Entire neighborhoods have walls around them, unemployment is rampant, no one drives because the cost of gas is too high, firefighters and police have grown more expensive and a new drug called pyro causes people to go on arson rampages. And throughout all this, Lauren Olamina is coming of age.

Prior to reading this, I had read the Wastelands anthology by John Joseph Adams, so this was a fitting endpiece to all the dystopian literature I had been reading. It was frightening to read of the rampant poverty and crime that existed outside Lauren’s neighborhood, and how it slowly seeped in. Lauren’s a bit of a prophet–she sees disaster coming on the horizon, but being a teenager, no one pays any heed to her until it’s too late. But Lauren doesn’t plan to mourn, or try to get things back to the way they used to be. She plans to survive, and more than that, she plans to transcend.

That’s what set this apart from the other dystopian stories I’ve read. In PotS, we see the beginnings of an entirely new religion, Earthseed, which equates God with Change. Very interesting idea, since in Christian theology, God never changes. The verses that spell out the Earthseed religion at times seem too zenlike and simplistic (one of the characters even point that out–a nice touch), and there were some statements I couldn’t agree with (I’m more in the God is Love camp, so I can’t full agree that God is an impersonal god, since love can’t be impersonal). At the same time, the book did make me think how change has been a huge influence throughout history. (My own realization I’ve been trying to reconcile over the past few years–God doesn’t change, but people do).

I want to read the next book, which I believe goes into more detail about the religion. I’m now certain I read that book, and now I have Lauren’s background, I think I’ll be able to appreciate it more.

Today, I picked my son up from school. We walked home, kids waving goodbye as they passed by us. We passed by the community garden, where there has been a problem of vandalism this summer, some veggies getting smashed before they’re ripe. At home, I learned my son had tossed a whole sandwich away and chastised him on it. Later on, my inlaws got into a small fender bender and a policeman came by to make a report and make sure they were okay.

Then I got on the internet and learned about a black woman who had been set on fire by three men and racist slurs scratched into her car, another mass shooting in Wisconsin, and child laborers in China.

Butler’s dystopia is a lot farther, and yet a lot more closer, than we think. Five acorns out of five and maybe I should pay more attention to the oak tree in our backyard. Just in case.

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