Flashback Friday: Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

It’s time, once again, for Flashback Friday…

Flashback Friday is a chance to dig deep in the darkest nooks of our bookshelves and pull out the good stuff from way back. As a reader, a blogger, and a consumer, I tend to focus on new, new, new… but what about the old favorites, the hidden gems? On Flashback Fridays, I want to hit the pause button for a moment and concentrate on older books that are deserving of attention.

If you’d like to join in, here are the Flashback Friday book selection guidelines:

  1. Has to be something you’ve read yourself
  2. Has to still be available, preferably still in print
  3. Must have been originally published 5 or more years ago

Other than that, the sky’s the limit! Join me, please, and let us all know: what are the books you’ve read that you always rave about? What books from your past do you wish EVERYONE would read? Pick something from five years ago, or go all the way back to the Canterbury Tales if you want. It’s Flashback Friday time!

My pick for this week’s Flashback Friday:

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

(published 1993)

When a friend with exquisite taste in books first recommended this book to me, I delayed and dawdled. It just didn’t sound like something I’d want to read — too Biblical, perhaps? Not at all, she assured me. Just give it a try, she cajoled. When I finally read it, I could have kicked myself. Why, oh why did I wait to read this book? This masterpiece by Octavia Butler scared the heck out of me, kept me up nights, and simply enthralled me.

From Publishers Weekly:

Hugo and Nebula Award-winner Butler’s first novel since 1989’s Imago offers an uncommonly sensitive rendering of a very common SF scenario: by 2025, global warming, pollution, racial and ethnic tensions and other ills have precipitated a worldwide decline. In the Los Angeles area, small beleaguered communities of the still-employed hide behind makeshift walls from hordes of desperate homeless scavengers and violent pyromaniac addicts known as “paints” who, with water and work growing scarcer, have become increasingly aggressive. Lauren Olamina, a young black woman, flees when the paints overrun her community, heading north with thousands of other refugees seeking a better life. Lauren suffers from ‘hyperempathy,” a genetic condition that causes her to experience the pain of others as viscerally as her own–a heavy liability in this future world of cruelty and hunger. But she dreams of a better world, and with her philosophy/religion, Earthseed, she hopes to found an enclave which will weather the tough times and which may one day help carry humans to the stars. Butler tells her story with unusual warmth, sensitivity, honesty and grace; though science fiction readers will recognize this future Earth, Lauren Olamina and her vision make this novel stand out like a tree amid saplings.

Parable of the Sower sets the bar high for dystopian fiction. In a world that is scarily recognizable, as the planet warms and resources become scarce, one young woman finds the strength to lead a makeshift family north toward a better life, guided by her vision of a new faith and a new future. The novel takes place only a little over a decade from now, and it’s all too easy to see that Octavia Butler’s fictional world isn’t that far from reality. Lauren Olamina is an unforgettable heroine, and while her story has more than its share of awful inhumanity and depravity, it has moments of loveliness, inspiration, and connection as well.

Whether or not you typically read science fiction, don’t miss out on Parable of the Sower and its powerful sequel, Parable of the Talents.

So, what’s your favorite blast from the past? Leave a tip for your fellow booklovers, and share the wealth. It’s time to dust off our old favorites and get them back into circulation! 

Note from your friendly Bookshelf Fantasies host: To join in the Flashback Friday bloghop, post about a book you love on your blog, and share your link below. Don’t have a blog post to share? Then share your favorite oldie-but-goodie in the comments section. Jump in!

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