Parable of the Talents

Parable of the Talents
Octavia Butler, 1998

Read Harder 2018 Challenge: A sci-fi novel with a female protagonist by a female author

Premise: Sequel to Parable of the Sower. Lauren Olamina tries to protect her growing family, her community, and the movement she hopes to foster, but the rest of the world isn't ready to leave them in peace.

Oof. This was a hard read. I had to take a break several times. All of the content warnings on this one: rape, murder, and torture, including violence targeting women, LGBTQ people, and racial and religious minorities. Government-sanctioned religious extremism. A politician rising to power on xenophobia, sexism, racism, and a false nostalgia for the past. If it had been written today, people would say the parody was too on-the-nose and over the top.

However, what troubled me the most wasn't any of that. The text of the novel is mostly drawn from the main character's diaries, but there's a framing device where each chapter is introduced by her daughter, a fair amount of time after the events. Her daughter's animosity toward the Earthseed movement was hard to read. Once I got through enough of the book, however, I began to think it was a brilliant addition.

Her perspective is not just giving a voice to those who doubt the destiny that the main character sees so clearly. It's also a second story about how truly devoting yourself to something, no matter how worthy, affects every relationship in your life. Now, Olamina's poor relationship with her daughter is mostly not her fault - horrifying things are done to them by outside forces. But the observation holds.

I felt the ending of this one was a bit rushed, there's a sudden time jump that startled me. So I didn't leave this with quite the same impact as the first.

Still, it's a powerful, amazing read in many ways, and I am sad that Ms. Butler passed away before finding the plot for the third book. The hints we have continue to fascinate. 

5 Stars - An Amazing Book


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