I went diving in this book without knowing what it was about and I am in awe. Astonished by the composition of this novel. From the writing to the plot to the characters. Everything was so well-thought that I wonder it the author got the best team of editors together for this publication. Now, what is it about? It’s hard to tell you when I don’t want to spoil too much but at the same time I want to do this book justice.
We have names, but they are names you can no longer pronounce without sounding as foreign as your captors.– The Prophets, Robert Jones Jr.
It’s a historical fiction setting in the Halifax cotton plantation, referred to as the Empty. Isaiah and Samuel’s forbidden love is at the center of this novel, as they are trying to navigate through their slave conditions to their infatuation for each other. This novel pushes us to think about what it is to not only be Black, but to be homosexual as well. They will be the center cataclyst to a series of events in the plantation, where the other slaves will also be persuaded to be against them.
Do you understand? The night sky itself gave birth to you and covers you and names you as her children above all others. […] And despise not the dark of your skin, for within it is the prime sorcery that moved us from belly-crawl to tall-walk. From the screaming, we brought forth words and mathematics and the dexterity of knowledge that coaxed the ground to offer itself as sustenance.– The Prophets, Robert Jones Jr.
Robert Jones Jr. gives us an hommage à la Toni Morrison, as well putting his own magic into it. It feels like the words come to him so naturally, yet so elegantly.
I find it also fitting that Robert Jones Jr. publishes this book in the first book of 2021, because it’s a statement. A statement saying that in 2021, we have enough and we can no longer deny the racism and the intolerance. While reading this book, there are scenes that will come that will be too horrific to even imagine but it’s in those scenes and those pasts that we should acknowledge in order to continue forward. The wrath and cruelty present in these plantations are atrocious and dreadful. Besides the racism, the author also points out the sexism in those times.
But in the shape of her body, which marked her as vulnerable from every direction, with danger lurking in the company of anybody, she kept her vengeance pillowed and well blanketed in the nest of her soul.– The Prophets, Robert Jones Jr.
Now as much as I want to give this book my 5 stars, there are some aspects that have hindered my reading experience. The different perspectives may be in a style itself very impressive at first, but when I’m in 200 pages, I started to loose track and get confused. And sometimes, I even forget what was the plot. The next pages always succeed in bringing me back but I was lost at moments.
I would still recommend 100% this book to anyone interested in plunging in a philosophical and meaningful journey!
Have you read this book? Would you put it in your TBR? 😉
Review by TRANG TRAN in collaboration with Penguin Random House Canada