Cover Image: The Perishing

The Perishing

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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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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.


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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There was a lot to unpack as I read this book but my initial worries that this book would be "too sci-fi" for me faded immediately. I found the synopsis to be very interesting. Once I was deep into it I found myself more and more intrigued. The innovative blend of historical fiction and science fiction was impeccable! If you are a fan of Octavia Butler, as I am you'll enjoy reading this book! The desire to know the backstories of the characters developed as I traveled through this book and if there is a follow-up, I would definitely read it as the ending left me with several questions. 

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book but, I need more answers! Natashia Deón is an incredible writer and storyteller. I look forward to enjoying more of her work.
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Set in Los Angeles and dually narrated, this book tells the story of Lou, a Black woman in the 1930s. While the novel is also narrated by Sarah, living in a future Los Angeles, the book is primarily about Lou. Lou, a writer for the Times, has seen more death than most. She has turned it into stories, helping both herself and others understand grief.  Or at least begin the attempt, as grief is never thoroughly understandable.  However, while Lou may tell stories of death, it’s her life that holds the real mysteries. Wounds that heal unexplainably.  Memories that she can’t quite place. A past that doesn’t exist. 

This book is excellent. To say it’s well-written is an understatement.  This novel has a depth, a voice, that I can’t begin to describe with my limited vocabulary and creativity. Rich with history, Deón tells stories of Black Los Angeles - a history that, of course, I was never taught. How did I graduate from high school in the ‘90s and never once hear the name LaTasha Harlins? Deón speaks truth that may be difficult to read, but is so necessary to share.  When I do reviews, I try to share what I liked best about the book, but the irony here is that I hated this book. As wonderfully crafted as it is, I hated that these things needed to be said. I hate that they are true. I can’t claim to like anything that made this book necessary. I spent the entire book trying to make sense of the filthy souls that plague the history of this country. I just don’t understand why anyone would want to cause so much pain. That being said, I love that people, like Deón, are speaking up, uncovering the past for what it is. We can do better.

The book comes out on November 2, 2021. Definitely recommend.

Thanks to Natashia Deón, Counterpoint Press, and Netgalley for this ARC in return for my honest review.
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While I enjoyed this book I think it felt a little jumbled for me. I think the story was strong enough, but felt that the characters (most importantly Lou) left me wanting more depth. The historical aspect was extremely well done but I felt let down at the end, especially when it took so long to find out 'the mystery'.
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I think this book had a lot of promise to be something great. I don't think sci-fi is really my thing, even though I want to enjoy this genre very much. This is a very messy and disjointed novel. Too much switching back and forth. It was hard to keep all the backstories straight. Jus too much information that doesn't really go anywhere. It's a shame, I really wanted to like it. The plot so intriguing, but the overall prose and tone was all over the place. The cover is gorgeous though.
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Ms. Deon's new book The Perishing is fantastic in all meanings of the word; I loved the use of time in this novel, the narrative that wove in the intersections of misogyny and racism within the context of LA's neighborhoods and across time. My initial worries that this book would be "too sci-fi" for me faded immediately as the book was actually just right for a reader like me who is seeking books that make me question what I know and don't know about race and cultural histories in the US, books that indeed play with time and memory while mixing in a coming of age/identity themes.  I loved the voice of the narrator and the writing style provided for me a strong sense of cohesion and clarity even as the book moved between times and aspects of memory/lived lives.

I am often captivated by books that play with the idea of how time could be out of order or experienced in ways we do not plan (such as past lives or connections across time) and I loved how the protagonist talked about time and memory in a way that helped me immediately understand how these were experienced by her and how they  were at the heart of the plot.  The elements of magical realism and hints of mystery and themes on identity were also elegantly integrated into this book.    I was drawn into the examination of who Sarah/Lou was and the examination of the self in time, place, memory, and consciousness and am still thinking about the prose and questions this book posed a day after finishing this book.

I saw this book listed in a preview of anticipated fall books in the NYTimes which lead me to request this book for review and I agree, this should be a highly recommended and anticipated book.  I think this is a must read for readers and book clubs who are open to examining racism and sexism within the supernatural, magical realism contexts this book offers.  I run a literary fiction chat and can't wait to recommend it to that group in particular.  It is of course easy to say that fans of Octavia Butler should read this book but I would also recommend it to fans of Dawnie Walton's debut this year, The Final Revival of Opal and Nev as I feel both books examine Black women's lives in important ways and with strong writing and to fans of Velvet was the Night for similarities in noir vibes and use of culture/contexts as an important part of plot and mood.

Thank you to Counterpoint press and NetGalley for the chance to read and comment on this book.

My full review will be shared on instagram and my website closer to publication date.
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I am docking 0.5 stars for lack of closure. I have so many questions. I need to know the backstories of the others. Please tell me, this is NOT a stand alone novel. 

Special shout out to a book-friend who's review of the book bumped it up on my TBR. And thank you to @netgalley and @counterpointpress for sending me an ARC.

And applause and appreciation to @natashiadeon for this masterpiece. Your writing is gorgeous, poignant, thoughtful and provocative.
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I really wanted to like this book. The premise of the book drew me in with the promise of a thriller having a black female protagonist with a sprinkle is sci-fi. But I just felt like there wasn’t enough magical realism or thrilling plot for me to disappear in. Often times I felt reminded of where I am today in the middle of a pandemic in 2021.
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Original beautifully written historical fiction with Sci-fi mixed in.Strong narration of people of colors experience through a large period of history comes alive through this authors lyrical writing.I will be recommending the book and this talented author.#netgalley#theperishing
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Astounding! Natashia Deon introduces a young girl, Lou, wandering in an LA alley in the 1930s. Lou has no memory of how she arrived there , but she is frightened of her surroundings as well as an unknown past that is just out of her grasp. So, this reader thinks historical fiction….but not quite. Lou has flashes of knowledge about the distant past and then into another time and memory of Sarah in the future. So, time travel….not quite. With touches of magic realism, science fiction, the history of Los Angeles, the mystery of Lou, and a 1930s noir Hollywood vibe, Deon constructs a beautifully told tale of racism, classism and misogyny. All this is related in beautiful language that is profound and sometimes ironic. Her messages from the past echo into the dynamics of today. I detected influences of Octavia Butler and Toni Morrison, just to cite a few. But this story is all Deon.  I couldn’t stop highlighting on my Kindle passages I wanted to return to and re-read. Knocked out and exhausted in the best way. Many thanks to Netgalley  and the publisher for the opportunity to read this title. Lastly, great cover art, too!
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The Perishing takes on the history of the African American experience through the lens of a narrator who is immortal and experiences a wide swath of American history. This novel takes on a lot with the wide range of history, a Sci-Fi frame and a late plot twist to unravel.
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I received a temporary digital advanced copy of The Perishing by Natashia Deon from NetGalley, Counterpoint LLC, and the author in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Waking up in an alley, Lou, not only has no memory of how she got into the alley, but no memory of who she is. It is 1930 and with the help of the LAPD, Lou is placed into foster care. She slowly realizes she is different; a cut immediately heals itself, a tattoo disappears, these unexplainable occurrences has Lou questioning even more who she is and where she is from. With the help of friends, Lou begins to put together the pieces of her lifetimes--as she is immortal--what that means and how she must stay safe from those trying to take away all she has.

The majority of The Perishing is historical fiction and highlights extremely interesting stories of struggles faced by Native Americans, Blacks, Mexicans, and Chinese in the LA region during its settlement and growth in the mid-to-late 1800s and early 1900s. Lou's stories are mixed in with those from a future Lou, Sarah. Sarah's stories mostly provide context and/or explanation for Lou's experiences. 

Overall, I enjoyed The Perishing as I love reading historical fiction. I felt as if the immortal side of the story was not much of a focus until the end, and would have loved for it to have more of a place throughout Lou's stories.
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The Perishing was a beautifully written, unique story. The alternating perspectives and various voices worked together well, giving the reader a wide range of outlooks.
This was a slow start for me, as we are tossed into the thick of the story and have to figure out what is going on. I found myself frustrated because I wasn't 100% sure what was happening. There was A LOT going on in this book and I did struggle keeping track of everything. I would have like less elements explored more in depth. That being said, once I got my bearings I really enjoyed the prose of this story.
I am looking forward to whatever Deon does next! Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with a e-copy in exchange for my honest review.
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Thank you NetGalley and Counterpoint Publishing for the ARC in return of an honest review.

The writing in The Perishing was absolutely beautiful. Natashia Deón has a beautiful way with prose that was at times melodic in my inner voice. The sections of the book that were narrated by the future consciousness were so deeply philosophical, yet captured the mind with beautiful imagery.

The journey that Lou takes is one through a short, but rich period of U.S., but more specifically California history. Having been raised in that same area, there were events of which I was unaware. The tragedy of the St. Francis damn and the killing of Latasha Harlins are both events not addressed in schools, nor in my home. For that, I am grateful to this book for bringing light to stories that have not been shared enough.

Coming in and out of time with the consciousness of the narrator was fascinating, but at times confusing. Sometimes Sarah would give context for her monologues, but others, the reader is left trying to find the relevance of her thoughts and the time from which she is speaking.

I feel I would be more inclined to give this book a higher rating if I had read it without having read the cover description first.

I came to this book looking for a sci-fi book with a Black heroine based in 1930. I ended up with a philosophical historical fiction delving into cultural injustice deeply ingrained in our society with a sprinkle of sci-fi in a couple of places. The sci-fi elements in this book are cool, and original, but not enough was done with that plot line for it to be worth it. In fact, I never figured out how she was supposed to save the world 😕.

If I could read this book without the sci-fi sprinkles, the last minute 'villain', and a more aligned narrator, I would easily give this a 5.

If I could read this book with the last 5% earlier in the book , like around 40% and continue exploring that angle with the historical influence. Again, easy 5.

As it is, as a sci-fi book I'd give it a 1. As a historical fiction book, 4.5 it left me feeling these characters in my spirit.
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