First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
A singular and stunning debut novel about forbidden union between two enslaved young men on a Deep South plantation, the refuge they find in each other, and the betrayal that threatens their existence.
Isaiah was Samuel’s and Samuel was Isaiah’s. That was the way it was since the beginning, and the way it was to be until the end. In the barn they tended to the animals, but also to each other, transforming the hollowed-out shed into a place of sanctuary, a source of intimacy and hope in a world ruled by vicious masters. But when an older man – a fellow slave – seeks to gain favor by preaching the master’s gospel on the plantation, the enslaved begin to turn on their own. Isaiah and Samuel’s love, which was once so simple, is seen as sinful and a clear danger to the plantation’s harmony.
With a lyricism reminiscent of Toni Morrison, Robert Jones Jr., fiercely summons the voices of slaver and enslaved alike. As tensions build and the weight of centuries – of ancestors and future generations to come – culminates in a climactic reckoning, The Prophets masterfully reveals the pain and suffering of inheritance, but is also shot through with hope, beauty, and truth, portraying the enormous, heroic power of love.
And that’s another work week in the books! I hope you are all ending the week on a high note. The start of the year has, so far, been marred by the threat of the Omicron variant. However, I remain optimistic that the pandemic will end soon. I hope that 2022 will be a great year despite the early hiccups. I pray that it will be a great year for everyone, a kind year brimming with hope, healing, and recovery. I also pray that we will all achieve all the goals that we have set for ourselves. I hope and pray that you are and you will be doing well, in body, mind, and spirit.
I know we are all excited for the weekend, even though it means cooping in our small corner of the world. But before I will dive into the weekend, let me close the workweek with another First Impression Friday update. At the start of the year, I have resolved to catch up on my 2021 reading list. So far, I have been reading books published in 2021; they have been gathering dust on my bookshelf. If I must say so, have been successful. I have already completed seven books and I am currently on my seventh! I have been gaining badly needed reading momentum and I couldn’t be happier. My current read, and this week’s featured book, is Robert Jones Jr.’s The Prophets.
It was in early 2021 that I first encountered The Prophets while searching for books to include in my 2021 Top 10 Books I Look Forward To List. It nearly made the cut but there were too many interesting titles coming out that I had to exclude it from my list. Nevertheless, it has piqued my interest, and when I came across a copy of the book, I didn’t hesitate in buying it. It was, after all, one of the most anticipated debut novels in 2021. My interest in the book was further piqued after learning that Jones Jr. was influenced by James Baldwin, a novelist whose work, Go Tell It On the Mountain, turned me into an admirer of his works. The parallels in their lives, I guess, made Baldwin a great role model for Jones Jr.
Jones Jr.’s debut novel revolves around Isaiah and Samuel, both African American slaves working on the Halifax plantation in the Deep South. The plantation was also referred to as Empty. They are lovers who found comfort in each other. They were each other’s rock in a world that was rife with cruelty towards their fellow slaves. Away from the tediousness of their responsibilities on the plantation, they found love. It does seem like a novel of contrast as their love story was juxtaposed to the viciousness of their masters, or “Massa” as they would call them. They were secure in each other until the arrival of Timothy, the son of the owners. Timothy was bewildered by Isaiah’s natural beauty.
And that’s how far I have gone into the story, so far. I am invested in the story because it is rare to find a work of historical fiction that explores the homosexual relationships between men, more so on African American men. This was something observed by some literary pundits when Nathan Harris’ debut novel, The Sweetness of Water, was published last year. Of course, they are two different stories, distinct in their premise and their voices. If there is a quality they both share it would be that they both command the reader’s attention.
From the synopsis, I surmise that something ominous will happen to Isaiah and Samuel. Their story, after all, was set in a time when masters or “slavers” have no qualms demonstrating atrocities towards their slaves. I am curious how this event will percolate. I can glean that there are some references to religious elements; the title gave it away. In connection, I am curious about a side story involving an African kingdom that was to be indoctrinated by a missionary named Gabriel. For those who have not read Go Tell It On the Mountain, Gabriel was the name of the main character’s preacher stepfather and was the representation of everything hypocritical the Church stands for. It is interesting how this pans out.
With the reading momentum I have gained, I am looking at completing the book over the weekend. How about you fellow readers? What book are you reading right now? I hope you get to enjoy it. For now, happy weekend! And as always, happy reading!