Cover Image: Perish

Perish

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Member Reviews

I had to abandon this one at about 15% when a young boy was raped by his uncle. This is early in the book so I don't consider it a spoiler, but I couldn't read on from there.
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Such a powerful book. Beautiful writing, a full and complex cast, and brilliant storytelling. LaToya Watkins is definitely one to watch. This story of a family's struggles through multiple generations gives the reader the chance to follow the characters Watkins has brought to life so well, we can practically see the breath coming off the page. This is not an easy story, but it was so well written that I was glued to it all the way through, and was left with a sense of hope and the opportunity for change. This one will be on everyone's must-read list.

LaToya Watkins came on the Secret Library podcast and it was a joy speaking to her about this book.
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This is probably the best book I’ve read in awhile. I was initially a little apprehensive because the story touched on generation trauma of SA but after really getting into each character I realized how amazing this author is and her writing is truly masterful. I cannot wait to read more from her.
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Perish by LaToya Watkins was covered in my Fall Book Preview, where I share a curated list of the season’s hottest new titles including the books I’ve most enjoyed, the ones I’m most looking forward to reading, and the ones the industry is most excited about. I have been loving the books released by Tiny Reparations and Perish is further confirmation of that!
Our Fall Book Preview event is exclusively for members of our MMD Book Club community and What Should I Read Next Patreon “Book Lover” supporters. Our communities also received a printable of all the picks with Perish's publishing info and release date included.
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So, I really liked this book, the subject matter was quite macabre but I think Latoya Watkins has excellent storytelling skills, you had to know what happened to this family, no matter how many traumatizing experiences you had to endure, and as a true suspense lover, I love it when I have to glean or piece together prior events in different characters narratives, its like a treasure hunt for my mind. I also really liked her conversational writing style, now many do not, but for me I like when writers use informal language and the cadence of the writing takes on a character's dialect in your mind. I am not a someone who cries and this book did make me tear up. Finally, I enjoy social commentary in a book, I don't care if it is overt or covert, that's just my jam, but the critique of secrets that haunt the Black family and how we use religion to mask our trauma instead of seeking help was quite powerful to me. Personally this was one of the more thought provoking books I have read this year.
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Perish was not an easy read. It follows the lives of several generations of one black Texan family and the heartbreaking inherited intergenerational trauma that they experience.
This story is told from the point of view of several family members and travels back and forth through a 60- year period. The book starts with a family tree. I read this book on Kindle and it was not easy to refer back to the family tree once past the point. I think in the future I will take a screenshot of family trees for easier access so that I can keep the character's stories straight.

Thank you to Net Galley and the publisher for providing me the advance copy to review!
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This is a wild ride! I had no clue what I was getting myself into but it definitely should come with some kind of warning. This is not a happy, feel-good title. It is very dark. Key trigger warnings include: incest, rape, suicide, drug addition

Initially, it was difficult for me to follow the family tree and who belonged to who. But now that I am finished, I am almost feel as though that was done intentionally because of how the family tree truly is. Overall, this book is very well written. I wasn't sold on the story at first but as I continued I can appreciate the underlying theme of breaking generational curses. 

I can definitely feel the Toni Morrison influence as I was reading this.
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Perish is one of those reads that is so intense, you can't stop reading. This read is about generational trauma and secrets.

The family gets together to say their final goodbyes to their matriarch, who was all things but loving and kind. Her definition of love is harsh, violent. Soul breaking,

The family faces so much; there were times I had to stop reading and get myself together. So, trigger warning.

This read will have readers holding their breath. I enjoyed it immensely and highly recommend it.
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This book is tough. I feel like I need to point that out. There has been a lot of discussion of people chasing after the trauma of Black people for their own entertainment, and this book has the potential to be added to the large number of books where that happens. It makes me want to tell people to be very careful when they enter into this book, to make sure they are prepared. That said, it is an excellent novel. The way it deals with the generational trauma, coming to terms with the bad things that happened to you, and locating family dynamics and how they can come to define you, is amazing. I was wowed by the way the author packed a punch in every single experience. She let you feel for the various characters and see how they were failed and how they then went on to fail others. Each person had their own experience, and it really shone through.
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There is one thing I can count on when there is a family tree in the beginning of a book. That is that it will be a good one. It has never let me down before, and this one delivered! The cover is so fitting to go with this multigenerational book as well! The family tree is made up of the roots it was planted from!

"𝑇ℎ𝑒 𝑓𝑟𝑢𝑖𝑡 𝑜𝑓 𝑦𝑜𝑢𝑟 𝑤𝑜𝑚𝑒𝑛𝑓𝑜𝑙𝑘 𝑖𝑠 𝑡𝑎𝑟𝑛𝑖𝑠ℎ𝑒𝑑, 𝑙𝑖𝑡𝑡𝑙𝑒 𝑔𝑖𝑟𝑙. 𝑁𝑜𝑡ℎ𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑔𝑜𝑛𝑒 𝑙𝑖𝑣𝑒 𝑜𝑢𝑡𝑠𝑖𝑑𝑒 𝑦𝑜𝑢𝑟𝑠. 𝑁𝑜𝑡ℎ𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑒𝑣𝑒𝑟 𝑠ℎ𝑜𝑢𝑙𝑑."

"𝑆𝑜𝑚𝑒𝑡𝑖𝑚𝑒𝑠 𝑤𝑒 𝑑𝑜𝑛'𝑡 𝑔𝑒𝑡 𝑡𝑜 𝑢𝑛𝑑𝑒𝑟𝑠𝑡𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑡ℎ𝑖𝑛𝑔𝑠, 𝑃𝑒𝑜𝑝𝑙𝑒. 𝑊𝑒 𝑗𝑢𝑠𝑡 𝑔𝑜𝑡 𝑡𝑜 𝑡𝑟𝑦 𝑡𝑜 𝑏𝑒 𝑏𝑒𝑡𝑡𝑒𝑟 𝑡ℎ𝑎𝑛 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑡ℎ𝑖𝑛𝑔𝑎 𝑡ℎ𝑎𝑡 𝑠𝑝𝑖𝑡 𝑢𝑠 𝑜𝑢𝑡."

Well, the family of Helen Jean Turner was definitely cursed for sure. This story packed a hard hitting, long lasting punch on me. After reading it over a week ago, I still have thoughts about it. Told from multiple POVs and timelines, we see how this matriarch's actions, and those before her, have an effect on her family for years to come. We also see how secrets that are kept can be devastating when they all come to the forefront.

"𝑇𝑟𝑢𝑡ℎ 𝑖𝑠 𝑒𝑎𝑠𝑦 𝑡𝑜 𝑝𝑢𝑠ℎ 𝑑𝑜𝑤𝑛, 𝑡𝑜 𝑚𝑎𝑘𝑒 𝑠𝑜𝑚𝑒𝑡ℎ𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑒𝑙𝑠𝑒 𝑤ℎ𝑒𝑛 𝑖𝑡'𝑠 𝑎𝑛 𝑢𝑛𝑐𝑜𝑛𝑓𝑖𝑟𝑚𝑒𝑑-𝑢𝑛𝑠𝑝𝑜𝑘𝑒𝑛 𝑡ℎ𝑖𝑛𝑔."

This one was so good, but… you gotta take the good with the bad. What I mean is that there are so many heavy things that happen in this book. It can for sure be a trigger, so I will say, tread lightly. But…If this one is not on your radar, guess what… It is now! I recommend that you add this one to your pub day purchases today! It's definitely a good read!

I am looking forward to more from this author!

Thank you @tinyrepbooks for my gifted copy!
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This was a long, dark book that illuminates the generational trauma that can exist in families. Helen Jean is on her deathbed and as we flashback to her life and the lives of her children and grandchildren who come to visit her, we learn that choices that she made as a teen, young mother, and even a grandmother, greatly effected her family. (Be aware that there is child sexual abuse in the book.) I did have a hard time keeping the characters straight during the book (not the main characters, but all of the additional characters who readers aren't directly introduced to) and I read it over just 3 days. Because it is such a long book, readers who take several weeks to read it might have an even harder time than I did. An important, brutal family saga for those who are prepared to read it.
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Perish is a multi generational story about a family in Texas plagued by generational trauma and abuse. The story begins with news of the matriarch Helen Jean near death. She is the ultimate keeper of secrets and was willing to take them to her deathbed. Her story began with a late night plea made in an outhouse for the turpentine she drank to cause her to abort her seed conceived of rape. She was told to bear the child or perish. 
     The birth of that child created deep rooted trauma and hate in her heart. The hate would poison the roots of her family tree. She passed the trauma to her children and her grandchildren. The sins of the previous generations affecting the next one, with everyone keeping the family's secrets at great personal costs. When family reunites secrets are revealed and it is revealed who is to blame for the pain in this family. 
        This story is gut wrenching trauma. I deeply cared for some of these characters. The multiple POV reveals while everyone knows some secrets, no one knows all of them. A trigger warning is one of the POVs is that of an abuser. His story does not try to garner sympathy as much as show how hurt people hurt people. Most of the POVs are the women in the family who had different but equally traumatic experiences.  As the story unfolds it reveals shocking secret after secret. When secrets are revealed will this heal the family or destroy it beyond repair?
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Incredibly dark and difficult read, but compelling and moving, and an insightful look at intergenerational trauma. It is hard to summarize, but it revolves around four generations of a Black Texan family, who have gathered to say goodbye to their matriarch. Everyone in the family is suffering, but not all of them know why, or they know parts of the puzzle, and it all must come out before any of them can move forward.

Watkins's control of her characters' POVs and distinct voices, thought processes, and decisions is remarkable. The atmosphere is claustrophobic, and the pace is notably fast for a story that unfurls partly in memories. There was a point at which the number of instances of violence began to reach a count that felt almost unbelievable even for a work that stretches across many decades (more below), but there is a feeling of bearing witness that makes the reader want to see the story through to its end. For readers of literary fiction, complex family stories, stories of intergeneration trauma; and for readers interested in character-driven stories with a strong sense of place and atmosphere. I think Watkins will garner a loyal readership instantaneously; I am already looking forward to what she will write next.

While I see myself doing readers' advisory for this title, I could not in good faith recommend it without urging potential readers to consult trigger warnings from reviews - this book contains over half a dozen implied or explicit scenes of rape, all of which involve a victim who is a minor (most are pre-pubescent) and nearly all of which involve incest. Many readers pick something up based on the copy, and so here they may find themselves blindsided by the devastating violence throughout. While there was no content warning in the ARC, I do hope the publisher includes one in the final printed edition.

Many thanks to Tiny Reparations and NetGalley for the advance copy.
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I'm not quite sure how to rate this honestly. This book is heartbreaking. It's unbelievably difficult to read but the overall point of the story is so important. Hurt people hurt people. As Mariame Kaba says "No one enters violence for the first time by committing it." All of the people in this book are hurt, they are all violated. They all experience hurt beyond belief. And many of them use the hurt that they experienced to hurt others. Violence doesn't just come out of nowhere. And in this book the violence comes from those we trust most; those who should never hurt us. It comes from fathers, mothers, brothers, grandmothers.

One woman is truly violated as a child, and becomes pregnant from that rape. When she tries to abort it, she hears a voice say "bear it or perish yourself" and in order to save herself, she decides to keep the child, setting off a long line of generational trauma. And the trauma isn't just physical violence. It's the trauma felt and experiences when secrets are kept. When children are chosen over other children: loved differently or not at all. Helen Jean then passes this violence and trauma onto her 4 children, who all pass it along onto their children in various ways. Until Helen Jean's grandchildren realize that they need to do whatever they can to stop this cycle of violence. 

I am honestly tearing up just writing this review because it is truly a devastating book. But it made me think a lot about the little and big violences that we experience everyday from our parents, families, grandparents. And how those traumas can be passed on in quite devastating ways. "No one enters violence for the first time by committing it". It's hard not to fault Helen Jean for her various actions and mistakes. But she experienced so much violence. She was so hurt. And hurt people HURT people.
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A heartbreaking novel about family and the difficulty of breaking the cycle of abuse. This book was almost excruciating to read but at the same time so compelling I couldn't put it down.
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Whew!  Two thoughts come to mind:  The Past Can Follow You and Hurt People Hurt People! 

Perish is a VERY dark, dysfunctional intergenerational family saga that focuses on the (in-)actions of a matriarch, a desperate Helen Jean, the only girl in a family of men, who in 1955 at 16 years-old, makes a covenant with God after a failed abortion attempt on the fetid floor of the family's outhouse.  Having lost her mother to suicide, Helen Jean's brokenness is caused by traumatic events and circumstances beyond her control making her a sympathetic character who gets consumed by pain, hopelessness, grief, and anger.  With few options, she drinks to forget and when buoyed by alcohol her heart hardens, her bad choices results in a sullied reputation with controlling ways – eventually developing a life-long mean-streak toward anything and everybody – intimidating and dominating her men and family included.  

The proverbial "fruit does not fall far from the tree" rings true in this diseased family tree and irreparable damage is inflicted on the innocents in horrific ways (check the trigger warnings below) -- hardly anyone is spared - she, her sibling, her children (and others), her grandchildren, and her neighbors...even her husbands are disrespected and abused. Lives and childhoods are destroyed.  Everyone suffers and sadly, they do not know why for a LONG time  -- in fact, the novel essentially opens at Helen's end when the family is called together in her last moments of life while hospitalized.  

As the family travels to Jerusalem, Texas, the novel is propelled by the points of view of her heirs and siblings via flashbacks told in alternating chapters which reveal their experiences through decades of ugliness, pain, and sorrow and their poor attempts of coping, including repressed memories.  There are many painful passages that are simply hard to read; but the reader and characters must push through to get the answers to the "whys" that have haunted them all their lives and to ultimately reveal "Grandmoan's"  and their parents' darkest secrets.

This debut author handled the pace well, character development (their POVs, personalities, thoughts and actions were credible/believable), and sense of place, differing eras and atmosphere were  accurate and painted well – I would have thought this was the work of a seasoned author.  

Trigger Warnings:  Incest, Child Abuse/Molestation/Rape, Domestic/Physical and Emotional Abuse, Verbal Abuse, Suicide, Mental Illness, and alcohol/drug use.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an opportunity to review.
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A family saga of Black women in Texas! The writing is beautiful, and I understood how they dealt with everything.  Great novel.
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Perish is a heartbreaking yet ultimately hopeful book about the tragic legacy of abuse and the choices survivors can make to speak their truth and reach out for support and healing. The author gives each character a distinctive voice and a respectful humanity despite and even perhaps of their personal failings.
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