Parable of the Sower (Earthseed #1) – Octavia E. Butler

parable of the sower
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Pages: 345
Release date: January 1, 2000 (Originally October 1993)

In 2025, with the world descending into madness and anarchy, one woman begins a fateful journey toward a better future

Lauren Olamina and her family live in one of the only safe neighborhoods remaining on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Behind the walls of their defended enclave, Lauren’s father, a preacher, and a handful of other citizens try to salvage what remains of a culture that has been destroyed by drugs, disease, war, and chronic water shortages. While her father tries to lead people on the righteous path, Lauren struggles with hyperempathy, a condition that makes her extraordinarily sensitive to the pain of others.

When fire destroys their compound, Lauren’s family is killed and she is forced out into a world that is fraught with danger. With a handful of other refugees, Lauren must make her way north to safety, along the way conceiving a revolutionary idea that may mean salvation for all mankind.

Parable of the Sower is a slow, well thought out tale of survival when all the odds are stacked against you in a world willing to do anything to take you down.

This novel is incredibly relevant to today’s political environment. There were so many instances where I perceived echoes of the world today in the world being described in the novel. Climate change and economic disaster are driving forces of the downfall of the United States of America. Food and water prices balloon plunging the country into chaos. The world Butler sets up is rooted in reality as the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela (2019) ramps up. There’s even a reference to a measles outbreak similar to what we’re seeing unfold in real life today.

“People, though, can always find a way over, under, or through.”

The main character, Lauren, is a brilliant young woman who, throughout the novel, tries to understand what’s happening to the world and how to cope. Through her observations and reasoning she invents a new belief system, Earthseed. This faith creates space for Lauren to find strength within herself to continue her journey and connect with others.

“Embrace diversity.
Or be divided,
By those who see you as prey.
Embrace diversity
Or be destroyed.”

Parable of the Sower is very much a character driven story. The story is told through journal entries written by Lauren at the end of each day. Readers get an intimate look at who Lauren is, who she wishes to be, and how her experiences and thoughts have shaped her during the multiple hardships she endures throughout the novel. As a result of this in-depth character analysis, the world building suffers. There are very little references to the world outside of Lauren’s immediate view, though they are insightful and eerily parallel to the world of 2019.

“[…] … like a symbol of the past for us to hold on to as we’re pushed into the future. He’s nothing. No substance. But having him there, the latest of a two-and-a-half-century-long line of American Presidents make people feel that the country, the culture that they grew up with is still here […]”

Overall, Parable of the Sower is an incredible novel about community and survival that highlights the strengths of diversity in a world where the way of the life of the past is no longer achievable.


Have you read Parable of the Sower? What did you think?

3 thoughts on “Parable of the Sower (Earthseed #1) – Octavia E. Butler

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