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The Perishing Review: Back-of-Book Description
A Black immortal in 1930’s Los Angeles must recover the memory of her past in order to discover who she truly is in this extraordinarily affecting novel for readers of N. K. Jemisin and Octavia E. Butler.
Lou, a young Black woman, wakes up in an alley in 1930s Los Angeles with no memory of how she got there or where she’s from. Taken in by a caring foster family, Lou dedicates herself to her education while trying to put her mysterious origins behind her.
She’ll go on to become the first Black female journalist at the Los Angeles Times, but Lou’s extraordinary life is about to take an even more remarkable turn. When she befriends a firefighter at a downtown boxing gym, Lou is shocked to realize that though she has no memory of meeting him, she’s been drawing his face for years. Increasingly certain that their paths previously crossed—and beset by unexplainable flashes from different eras haunting her dreams—Lou begins to believe she may be an immortal sent here for a very important reason, one that only others like her can explain.
Setting out to investigate the mystery of her existence, Lou must make sense of the jumble of lifetimes calling to her, just as new forces threaten the existence of those around her.
Immersed in the rich historical tapestry of Los Angeles—Prohibition, the creation of Route 66, and the collapse of the St. Francis Dam—The Perishing is a stunning examination of love and justice through the eyes of one miraculous woman whose fate seems linked to the city she comes to call home.
The Perishing Review: My Thoughts
I love a good sci-fi story, especially a time travel one. When this book was an option on Book of the Month, the description lead me to believe it would be just such a book.
Wellll…. That’s not quite what The Perishing ended up being. But it was still pretty interesting.
The first line of this book is a real attention grabber and made me think there were going to be elements of LGBTQ+. But there wasn’t. So first of all, if you pick this up or preview it on Amazon, do not be alarmed by the opening sentence.
The story is really more of an historical fiction with a little bit of fantasy thrown in. Think similar to The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, but from an African American perspective and not quite as cohesive with the storyline.
The structure jumped from the past to way far in the future, but most of the plot takes place in the past. Personally, I never really understood what was going on in the future chapters. But those were short and I think meant to offer a perspective on how the character changed and looked back on things.
The writing was really beautiful and there were definitely some interesting things happening. But the time jumps were odd and hard to follow when they weren’t broken up by chapters.
The settings were largely based in LA. In fact, there were times that the book seemed like a love letter to that city and the culture surrounding it. They also talked about Route 66 a lot and the conflicting opinions about its creation in certain neighborhoods.
The dialogue between characters was well written, as well as the characters themselves for the most part. Although I do think there were times some more information could be given. The narration – or the inner dialogue – of the main character was sometimes hard to follow.
All that being said, there were still some really great lines and I ended up marking quite a few quotes. I also think this might make an interesting book club choice, as there would be a lot to discuss and try to make sense of.
Favorite Quotes from The Perishing:
“We’re all on the verge of somebody else’s violence.”
“…how you’re received is not always up to you.”
“…but people who are meant to be in our lives will find us. No matter how far we wander. Even if when we find each other we’re lost. Together.”
“Imagination and enthusiasm are the currency of world builders.”
“We grieve the end and the future we’d imagined at the same time, even the conversation we’d hoped to have one day with the person, now lost.”
“…the process that opens the door to another person’s freedom rarely ends in orgasm. It’s just the right thing to do.”
“Imagine God’s a violin maker and we’re the players who have choice, and now she’s watching us use her lovely creations as tennis rackets.”
“Money is power and only fear is greater than that.”
“…in America, where melancholy and sadness are not presumed to be normal human conditions. Here, there’s a pill, a drink, a religion, a spiritual perspective with a diet plan for that. There’s a tremendous amount of money to be made from treating the expressions of our distress and discontentment.”
“It’s terrible to imagine, sure, or to imagine that you could be a victim too. That it could be your children among those whose existence causes fear in another human being, enough fear to cause another to want to put them dog like a rabid dog.”
The Perishing Review: In Conclusion
I finished this book a while ago and am still trying to wrap my head around how I feel about it. I think as far as ratings go, I will settle on 3.25 stars for The Perishing.
While I found the writing really beautiful, it was difficult to follow along with the story. I didn’t understand all of the time jumps or what we were supposed to take away from it all as a whole. But that last part – the takeaway – is probably best left up to each individual reader.
It’s not a very long book – around 300 pages – so it won’t take up much of your time to give it a shot. I would especially recommend it to people who like to read stories from a Black American perspective. It would also be good for people interested in sci-fi mixed with historical fiction.
If you have read this already, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
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