The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
Octavia Butler was one of the most phenomenal science fiction writers ever! I definitely don't think she's gotten enough praise for how brilliantly she crafted deeply moving stories. I read 'Kindred' by her a long time ago and it is definitely time for a reread. I am so excited about this series because I love books that are richly written and pull me into the world where I am left to feel every emotion of the characters as they develop. Butler's writing in this book is a foretelling. I think that with society being in the place it is now, anarchy and the residuals of it don't seem like that far fetched of an idea. 'The Parable of the Sower' details every aspect of world much different than the one we know and what it takes to survive it.
When unattended environmental and economic crises lead to social chaos, not even gated communities are safe. In a night of fire and death Lauren Olamina, a minister's young daughter, loses her family and home and ventures out into the unprotected American landscape. But what begins as a flight for survival soon leads to something much more: a startling vision of human destiny and the birth of a new faith.
This is how you write dystopia! Lauren, the main character, is only fifteen years old but after losing her brother Keith and her father, a pastor, she didn't falter or lean on a "male hero" to carry her through a post apocalyptic society riddled with anarchy. She is a thinker, but also trying to make sense of her faith in the midst of everything surrounding her. I really liked the relationship between her and her father. Being that her father is a pastor, he believes that God controls everything and that people need to just be quiet and be still and believe in the power of prayer. As Lauren began to figure out where God fits into the chaos she almost becomes the antithesis of her dad's beliefs; God is in control but we shape God by not just sitting idly by and praying but being a representation of this greater power through action. I am a Christian, but when I was fifteen years old I definitely didn't have the forethought to dissect religion or create such a deep understanding of faith the way Lauren does. However, I was not faced with living in a society plagued with such anarchy. The other trait of Lauren's father that I loved is that even with his religious perspective he knows that he needs to teach his daughter and others survival skills.
Throughout the story, Lauren develops her own belief system. She, in hindsight, sows a seed of new faith for people to follow in a new world. She is dealing with a human existence where violence and murder are normalized so there is opportunity for her to create a new way of thinking; a new way to give hope in a fully declined society. Lauren, at some point, in the story connects with Harry and Zahra. These two essentially become like family to her as they strategize their survival which includes acquiring weapons. The dynamics of their relationship is so interesting. They all are prejudged towards each other based on hearsay, rumors etc. but having to depend on each other allows them to be open with one another no matter what. Feeling comfortable enough to open up to someone is the foundation of most relationships no matter the set of circumstances.
When Zahra and Harry were supposed to be look-outs where they had settled they took a moment to be intimate with Lauren watching on. I think Lauren felt lonely in that moment. She had lost everyone she loved. Afterwards, when Lauren approached them about being mindful and letting them know their actions could've gotten everyone killed, Zahra asked Lauren if she were jealous and explained that she just need someone, something. I don't feel as if Lauren's feelings were based on any feelings of attraction she had towards Harry. I think she needed to just feel connected and Zahra and Harry's moment made her feel disconnected and left out. She also developed a close knit relationship with Zahra which was needed. She is a young girl after all.
Lauren always recruited likeminded people into her circle because of her fore thinking. She had to have the right people around her not only to rebuild but pass on her written parables for a new society to think of God and spirituality in a completely different way. Another character that is introduced towards the end of the book is Bankhole. Finally Lauren has someone she felt romantic feelings for. I wanted this so much for her, but I loved that Bankhole and Lauren's relationship were written in a way that did not take away from her strength.
I started researching and I found a passage from the bible because I wanted to have a greater understanding of what 'Parable of the Sower' actually meant.
I think whether you are religious or not, spiritual or not there is truth in planting a seed on good soil. This is how I think Butler developed Lauren's character. She is the sower. She is planting new faith, with the parables from her journey of survival, in a world without it. This book is brilliant and a must read! This definitely gave me an idea for a podcast!