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.

Synopsis:

The Water Dancer meets The Prophets in this spare, gripping, and beautifully rendered novel exploring love and friendship among a group of enslaved black strivers in the mid-nineteenth century.

They call themselves the stolen. Their owners call them captives. They are taught their captors’ tongues and their beliefs but they have a language and rituals all their own.

In a world that would be allegorical if it weren’t saturated in harsh truths, Cato and William meet at Placid Hall, a plantation in an unspecified part of the American South. Subject to the whims of their tyrannical and eccentric captor, Cannonball Greene, they never know what harm may befall them: inhumane physical toil in the plantation’s quarry by day, a beating by night, or the sale of a loved one at any moment. It’s a cruel practice – the wanton destruction of love, the belief that Black people aren’t even capable of loving – that hurts the most.

It hurts the reserved and stubborn William, who finds himself falling for Margaret, a small but mighty woman with self-possession beyond her years. And it hurts Cato, whose first love, Iris, was sold off with no forewarning. He now finds solace in his hearty band of friends, including William, who is like a brother to him; Margaret; Little Zander; and Milton, a gifted artist. There is also Pandora, with thick braids and long limbs, whose beauty calls to him.

Their relationships begin to fray when a visiting minister with a mysterious past starts to fill their heads with ideas about independence. He tells them that with freedom comes the right to choose the small things – when to dine, when to begin and end work – as well as the big things, such as whom and how to love. Do they follow the preacher and pursue the unknown? Confined in a landscape marked by deceit and uncertainty, whom can they trust?

In an elegant work of monumental imagination that will reorient how we think of the legacy of America’s shameful past, Jabari Asim presents a beautiful, powerful, and elegiac novel that examines intimacy and longing in the private quarters of the enslaved while asking a vital question: What would happen if an enslaved person risked everything for love?


Happy Friday everyone! And that is another work week in the books. It also means that we are already three weeks into 2023. Wow. Time does fly fast. It wasn’t too long ago when we were all celebrating the new year. How quickly we’ve moved on from the festivities. I hope that the year has been great for all of you. Personally, it was a busy time because of the year-end closing and statutory activities. I am glad we are nearly done. Anyway, I hope that this year will be a great one, a year that will be brimming with blessings, healing, good news, and good tidings for everyone. I hope everyone is doing well, in mind, body, and spirit. After chalking up another work week, I hope you get to enjoy the weekend. I hope that everyone is ending the week on a high note. If your week went otherwise, I hope you get to rest and recover. Let’s jump into the weekend!

Before I can jump into the weekend, let me cap the work week with a new First Impression Friday update, my third for the year. Already! Just like how I started the previous year, the first few weeks of 2023 will be spent catching up on 2022 releases I was not able to read last year. I have, so far, made huge strides as I am already reading my fifth novel for the year. This makes ten of my last eleven reads 2022 releases. Earlier today, I started a book that I have been looking forward to since last year, Jabari Asim’s Yonder. This is my first novel by Asim, a name I have not heard of nor encountered prior to 2022.

It was actually through a fellow book blogger that I heard of Yonder. She recommended the book, hence, its immediate addition to my reading list. Surprisingly, I was able to acquire a copy of the book without much trouble. Unfortunately, it was left to gather dust on my bookshelf as I prioritized other books. 2023 gave me the opportunity to finally read the book. The book transported me to the antebellum South, a setting quite ubiquitous in American literature. There are parts of history that are wells from which writers often draw inspiration. The rich history of slavery that has long haunted the American South, coupled with the Civil War, made up for a lush mantle for writers.

Anyway, the novel was related through the perspective of multiple characters. Ah. I am not really a fan of multiple points of view. Nevertheless, I am always willing to give them a try. The main voices of Yonder were William, Margaret, Cato, and Pandora. Each character gave glimpses of life in the south. We learn how they were forcefully taken by the Thieves – the main characters would collectively refer to themselves as the Stolen – to Placid Hall, a plantation owned by Randolph “Cannonball” Greene. Greene was a wealthy plantation owner who also owned two other plantations: Pleasant Grove and Two Forks. He was also ruthless. In William’s words, Greene was described as a man “with too much money, too much land, and too much idle time.”

While multiple points of view can be challenging, it also has their merits. For instance, they give different perspectives and give intimate peeks into what makes the main characters tick. Different personalities also make up for an interesting, if not adventurous reading, and also different reading experiences. This was the case, so far, with Yonder. The characters are both believable and relatable, especially as they exhibit typical human emotions, from love to anger to despair. Beyond the characters, I see how Asim had no scruples in painting the dark realities that black slaves had to grapple with. We read of abusive slave owners but also of the betrayal among the group of slaves.

Funnily enough, the story reminded me of Robert Jones Jr.’s The Prophets, a book I read early last year which grappled with the same subject, with some deviations. Similar structures and images, in particular, resonated between the two books. I, however, find The Prophets, while interesting, was lacking overall. I am hoping not to have the same experience with Yonder. To be fair, I didn’t realize there was already a comparison between the two books in Yonder’s synopsis. It may have tickled my imagination but then left it again due to the passage of time. Another comparison was made, but now with Ta-Nehisi Coates’ The Water Dancer, a book I am yet to read. However, Yonder is how I imagined The Water Dancer would be. Maybe I really should also read the book.

In a book that is character-centric, my expectation of the book would often careen toward how the writer will develop the characters. The plot, obviously, is not as robust, but the eclectic set pf characters also make up for a memorable experience. That is how I hope Yonder would be. Thankfully, the writing is more accessible compared to The Prophets. I just might be able to finish the book over the weekend. How about you fellow reader? What book or books are you taking with you for the weekend? I hope you get to enjoy them. Again, happy holidays everyone!