Parable of the Sower is the collected diaries of a young black woman called Lauren Olamina, living in california in 2025, in an almost apocalyptic time. Lauren is a hyperempath, a inherited condition that causes her to feel the pain of other people she sees. Lauren and her family live in a walled community, in fear of thieves and gangs and rapists, and 'paints', people with painted faces addicted to a drug called pyro, that makes them set fire to things for the pleasure of watching it burn. Life is a contstant struggle for Lauren, she's discovering new views about god that she can't share with anyone except her diary. And new ideas about preparation and survival that no one wants to listen to. And then one day their walled community is attacked by a gang of paints, and Lauren's skills are tested for the first time.
I found this novel insanely difficult to get into, I finally gave up after just over 100 pages I believe, so I gave it a fair go, but I never did finish it. Which is disappointing in itself, but I just didn't enjoy it. Usually I love this kind of dystopian/apocalyptic thing, but I just couldn't get into this one.
First I wasn't quite getting into the style of the writing, not the fact that it was a diary, but just the style of it always felt very... detatched. As if even tho Lauren was part of the events around her, that she wasn't connected to them. It felt a little like having blinkers on, I wanted her to look at more things and think about more things. I wanted to know how she felt about feeling other people's pain, but what I felt I was getting was a detatched description of it. I suppose this is understandable, and I could have dealt with it, but only if I didn't have another niggle..
So my ultimate niggle was really just the frustration at not understanding the distaster that was supposed to have happened or happening. The story hinted at some ultimate cause for the apocalyptic type situation they find themselves in now, but it wasn't clearly stated. And I found myself constantly trying to figure out what was going on with the walled communities, the economic failure, the constant violenc and lack of order etc.. At one point I was very confused, as Lauren's friend sat eating a plastic prepackaged bean salad, which to me seemed an extravagance in the middle of an economic crisis where everything costs too much and self sufficiency was becoming more norm. And then I thought.. hang on, if hardly anyone can get a job then who is working in the food packing factory to make the bean salad?
So hopefully you can see where my frustration came from. I think I gave the book a fair chance, and when my confusion wasn't lightened at just over 100 pages I took the choice whether to plod on and hope for revelation.. or give up and read something else; I gave up.
I am disappointed, because Octavia Butler is highly recommended by certain of my friends, and the rarity of finding a black author writing black characters is quite something interesting in this genre. I would very likely try another book by the same author just to give her another good chance. But sorry this was not for me.