Having read Parable of the Sower for my book club, I knew I had to rush straight into Parable of the Talents. It’s a personal mission of mine to read all of Octavia Butler’s stories and I’m so happy that I read three of them this year! Keep reading this book review to find out what I thought about this sequel!
In 2032, Lauren Olamina has survived the destruction of her home and family, and realized her vision of a peaceful community in northern California based on her newly founded faith, Earthseed. The fledgling community provides refuge for outcasts facing persecution after the election of an ultra-conservative president who vows to “make America great again.” In an increasingly divided and dangerous nation, Lauren’s subversive colony–a minority religious faction led by a young black woman–becomes a target for President Jarret’s reign of terror and oppression.
Years later, Asha Vere reads the journals of a mother she never knew, Lauren Olamina. As she searches for answers about her own past, she also struggles to reconcile with the legacy of a mother caught between her duty to her chosen family and her calling to lead humankind into a better future.
TW: rape, assault, torture
I was not expecting Parable of the Talents to be so action driven. For me, Parable of the Sower felt incredibly character specific as Lauren was laying the foundation for Earthseed. But Parable of the Talents was a captivating read. One that felt almost prophetic considering the last four years of hatred, intolerance, and hate crimes. Reading it now, felt eerie, the ways Butler was able to foresee the ways hatred would garner more votes. The militant views and the way people took them to the streets.
The setting of this duology is a mere few years away and I felt the distance diminishing even more with this sequel. I can’t get over how brilliant a writer Butler was. The ways we don’t think anyone is listening, taking these words of intolerance to heart, but then the day after arrives and the world changes. What people will do when they feel like those in power support their actions, allow them to get away with their mistakes and crimes.
Mothers and Daughters
At the same time, Parable of the Talents is a story about mothers and daughters, about reckoning with our future and the past. Reading Asha Vere’s thoughts on her mother, her actions, and the past was hard to read at times. Having spent so much time with Lauren, we want to say, “But look what she did, all she had to endure!” yet at the same time, I 100% understood Asha Vere’s POV.
Butler is able to display humans in their weaknesses, vulnerabilities, flaws, and joys in multi-color. How we view the decisions of our parents with hindsight. The ways their actions seem so clear and determined, when at the time it never was. And how we often wish different choices we made, but these signify wanting them to be someone they never were. To be true to ourselves, sometimes we have to choose a fate which infuriates those we love most.
People are never simple. Never either good or evil. While impact outweighs intentions, at the moment what will we do for stability? For a community that, even tenuous, will not turn its back on us? We never believe it can happen to us, until it does. Parable of the Talents is, by no means, a simple sequel. Delivering chills to our bones, it’s a story that showcases humans in their complexity, flaws, and mistakes. Even our own heroes.