Cover Image: The Perishing

The Perishing

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Member Reviews

Genre: historical fiction, ownvoices, speculative fiction
Pub date: Nov 2 (out now!)
In one sentence (from publisher): A Black immortal in 1930s Los Angeles must recover the memory of her past in order to save the world.

This book is really hard for me to rate! It's unlike anything I've read before, and I really appreciate the novelty. The best part of the novel is Lou, our 1930s protagonist - I was so entranced by her story. I highlighted so many passages on my kindle as she discussed racism and prejudice. 

The frame of the story outside of Lou confused me a bit - a character named Sarah narrates from the future, and it's not clear what her role is. There's also a dramatic plot that takes place out of the blue in the last 20% of the book, and it didn't fit well with the rest of the story.

If you like speculative fiction, you may enjoy this book. Despite its flaws, I loved Lou's character development and I'm still glad I read it. I'll be interested to see what the author writes next, as she has a lot of potential!

Thank you to Counterpoint Press for providing an ARC on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Déon's writing and conceptualisation of her character and premise are reminiscent of Octavia Butler and that should have been a win. Her attention to detail is apparent in the depiction of various social tensions and issues of 1930s Los Angeles and was appreciated.

Jumps between times, backwards and forwards, introduces unique and mysterious aspects of our protagonists and their predicament: existing in multiple timelines, dealing with multiple issues of belonging, identity, and representation.

This has everything to be complex and intricate, but loses much with its incomplete histories of two of three characters who should anchor a strong story. It makes the reader question the need for these two who do little to drive the plot forward.

Where she lost the pacing and character development is when she decided to drop in an exposition on boxing. This broke the tone of the story as it did nothing to advance the arc of Lou. Now there are incidences of this throughout, but they are succinct and only help in building out the necessary aspects of character and story.

I just wish more time and attention had been given to fleshing out the development of each main character and how they would play into the ensuing revelation.
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The Perishing by Natashia Deon, is an interesting novel about Lou, a young Black woman who wakes up in an alley in 1930s Los Angeles.  She is basically naked and has nothing to her name.  She is taken in by a foster family and there starts her life, but Lou has no memory of what life was like before her time in the alley.  Lou has so many questions but with little answers she decides to focus on her education while trying to put the past behind her. Lou goes on to be the first Black female journalist at the Los Angeles Times, but Lou’s life becomes even more interesting when she becomes friends with a firefighter, a man who's face she knows well because she has been drawing it for years. 

There are so many social issues that are brought up regarding people of coloring and women of color that makes this novel an important read. But, with the nonlinear plot, I became confused many times.  Also, the story line is sometimes hard to follow as well.  The story jumps back and forth between Sarah in 2102 and Lou in the early 1930s.  Sarah’s chapters are shorter and more of an emotional reflection on events that take place in Lou’s life.  The book synopsis does not mention Sarah which is a character that can make the story line confusing in some places yet bring meaning and depth in others places

Overall, I think this book should be getting more recognition than it is for the important issues discussed.  The audio book was fantastic and really brought the book to life.

Thank you to NetGalley and Counterpoint Press for this copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Not what I Was expecting which isn't to say it's not an ambitious novel that delves into unexplored territory. It just didn't resonate with me as much as I thought it would.
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I was excited to try this book as I hold Book of the Month very highly and this was one of their selections. Unfortunately, I struggled to get invested. I tried both the ebook and audio. The writing was good and I liked Lou but I found a plot to be severely lacking.
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The Perishing is a wildly imaginative debut novel. With notes of fantasy, magical realism, and the pathos of contemporary fiction, Deon takes the reader through a wild ride.
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This title just didn't work for me. It's been getting great reviews, and I would definitely try another title by this writer, but the structure and violence in this title were a bit much for me.
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I wanted to love this book so much. It had potential, but in the end, the pieces didn't quite fit together for me. I do wonder how much the editing process may have changed the book before its final publication, as I read a digital advance copy. I thought this book had promise as a work of historical fiction, and maybe if the book had focused on Lou and her experience as a Black reporter in L.A. in the 1930s, it would have been stronger for me. I felt that the other sections of the book (like the "Sarah" of the 22nd century) weren't fleshed out enough and therefore seemed to be trying to do too much and detracting from the strength of Lou's story. Personally, I would have rather read a historical fiction novel about Lou, or I would have rather read a novel that more deeply touched her other lives instead of mentioning them in such quick passes. There were also some passing mentions that seemed very directly related to society's current treatment of Covid-19, and while I agreed with the sentiment of the statements expressed, they were also a little distracting and felt out of place. (Again, trying to do "too much"?) I do hope Natashia Deon writes another novel soon, and I would love to read it, but this one did not hit the mark for me.
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The blurb of The Perishing was so much better than the book itself. 

For most of the book, I was confused. When the denouement finally appeared, it felt rushed. And, to be honest, I didn’t care what happened by then anyway. Do yourself a favor and skip this book. 2 stars.

Thanks to Counterpoint Press and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
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“Sadness can be the hardest thing to let go of when there are no visible scars. Scars are the only proof a person has to show that something went terribly wrong.” 

Natashia Deon’s character Sarah gave the reader much to ponder with her lyrical, insightful, mystical and poetic internal dialogue. Her comments on grief, responsibility, owning your narrative and survival resonated with me. Most of what I highlighted in the book were from her sections. 

I enjoyed Lou and Esther’s friendship and how loyal and committed they were, especially Lou. Deon does a great job weaving history into the novel and I learned about the history of Los Angeles. Her book portrayed what it is like to live in the 1930s as a Black woman and, to a certain degree, what life was like for Asian Americans.

The ending confused me, and I am somewhat unsure I understand how everything tied together in the end. The relationship of the characters was also confusing. As others have said in their reviews, much of the unfolding of the major plot points happen in the last 40 pages of the book. I wish this was introduced or foreshadowed earlier in the book. The ending felt abrupt, and I would have loved for the ending to have been expounded upon more. 

I received an Advanced Reviewers Copy of The Perishing in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Netgalley and Catapult, Counterpoint Press, and Soft Skull Press.
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I finally had to DNF this at 35%. All of my complaints have been said before in other reviews. The first couple of chapters were fascinating but then the past lives bit was barely present and the rest of the story felt disjointed. I didn’t mind the point of view switching between the future life and past life but even subsequent chapters of the same characters felt more like a collection of chronological anecdotes rather than a cohesive story with connected events. I was forcing myself to continue reading it, but after opening it 3 times with the thought of “ugh I don’t feel reading this” I decided life is too short and gave up. I would read something else by this author but this book just missed the mark.
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It tried with the book and had high hopes, but I DNF’d at 41%. I wasn’t a fan of the switching POVs and I just couldn’t find anything to connect me to the book or make me care what was happening.
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I really wanted to love this book, but I could not get attached to it. The writing was well done, but the narrative itself was too abstract to follow. I have read books like this that are well done, but this work was too messy to be enjoyable. I ended up skimming the last half, because I found myself just wanting to get it over with. It may just be that I am not intelligent enough for this novel, but it was not for me.
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I tried so hard to get into this book and I kept waiting for it to pick or for something to happen, but it didn't. I wanted to enjoy this because I actually really enjoyed the character Lou but then got taken out of it when the they jumped timelines. For Lou is why I gave this 3 stars.
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The Perishing by Natashia Deon is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late October.

Sarah speaks with stoic brevity about the passage of time and relays the events of her life (and those of her extended family) as to someone beside her on a porch or someone next to her in a waiting room. Concurrently is the story of one of these lives, Lou, during the 1930s that's still told in first-person and is a lot more vital, visceral, and in-the-moment than how Sarah tells things.
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The Perishing by Natashia Deon has an appealing sci-fi premise, featuring a heroine who exists across multiple timelines, but ultimately doesn't live up to expectations. I appreciated what Deon was trying to do with this novel (a bit of Butler here, a dash of Le Guin there), and was invested in the story's centering around race, but found it ultimately wanting in the end.

The novel follows Lou, a teenage Black girl, who awakens with amnesia in downtown depression-era Los Angeles. Not knowing who she is, Lou has to deal with being a strange city in a strange body while she navigates the circumstances of the time. Some part sci-fi, some part journalistic thriller, and some part romance, the novel moves more languidly than the switches in genre may suggest. I struggled to finish the book. While the story itself doesn't tread terribly new ground, the vantage point from a woman of color's perspective does present new areas of exploration. I just wish that I cared more about the characters to find myself more invested in the story. 

Fans of modern sci-fi and fantasy will enjoy this book, including fans of modern classics from the aforementioned Octavia Butler and Ursula K. Le Guin, but also Philip K. Dick and maybe even Vonnegut. I can see where Deon was influenced by these works, but unfortunately the novel doesn't fare well in comparison in my opinion (although, that is quite a high bar). There's enough red meat to satisfy a genre-goer's interest. For a contemporary reference, fans of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue comes to mind immediately as a similarly fluffy sci-fi/fantasy piece with an insular narration.
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The writing was absolutely gorgeous. The plot was intriguing, not something overdone lately. Someone else described this as ambitious and I can't disagree. I fell in love with it and cannot wait to obtain a physical copy so that I can go back through and annotate.
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I didn't love this book, I didn't like it either. But, to be fair, I blame that on the book description and not the book itself.

The book was described as this fun science fiction adventure featuring an immortal black woman with amnesia. THAT was the book I was excited to read. Unfortunately, what I got was this boring, rambling tale about a depressing orphan living a boring life. Nothing personal against orphans or stories about orphans, but that's not what I signed up for when I got this book.

Lou wakes up in an alley, with no memory and no clothes. And for the next 100-120 pages (not sure of the actual page count because page numbers were omitted in favor of location, lame), that's the only exciting/interesting thing that happens. Eventually, like in the last five or so chapters, Lou learns of her origins, sort of, and manages to fight off the big bad.

Sigh.

For the sake of fairness, I will say that the author's writing was engaging. If this book had simply been marketed as literary fiction, then I might feel differently. But imagine being told that you're going to go to see a lion, but instead you're presented with a lazy house cat. I spent most of the book desperately waiting for the cool sci-fi stuff to happen, and by the time it did, I was underwhelmed.

I received this book via Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
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Before I could even read the e-book before the publication date, I was surprised to find that Book of the Month had selected The Perishing as one of its monthly picks! I found the book to be devastatingly well-written, and I loved the way everything fleshed out. A+ characters, plot development, and structure. I have no notes!
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A body hopping immortal wakes up in 1930 Los Angeles with no memory of who she is. Sometimes the book read like a list of historical facts instead of a novel. Also it was never clear what was going on with the future character.
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