The perishing A novel

Natashia Deón

Book - 2021

"Lou, a young Black woman, wakes up in an alley in 1930s Los Angeles, nearly naked and with no memory of how she got there or where she's from, only a fleeting sense that this isn't the first time she's found herself in similar circumstances. 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 become even more remarkable. When she befriends a firefighter at a downtown boxing gym, Lou is shocked to realize that though she has no memory of ever meeting him she's been drawing his face since her days in foster c...are. Increasingly certain that their paths have previously crossed-perhaps even in a past life-and coupled with unexplainable flashes from different times that have been haunting her dreams, Lou begins to believe she may be an immortal sent to this place and time for a very important reason. One that only others like her will be able to explain. Relying on her journalistic training and with the help of her friends, Lou sets out to investigate the mystery of her existence and make sense of the jumble of lifetimes calling to her from throughout the ages before her time runs out for good. Set against the rich historical landscape of 1930's Los Angeles, The Perishing charts a course through a changing city confronting racism, poverty, and the drumbeat of a coming war for one miraculous woman whose fate is inextricably linked to the city she comes to call home"--

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Fantasy fiction
Historical fiction
Berkeley, California : Counterpoint 2021.
Main Author
Natashia Deón (author)
First hardcover edition
Physical Description
307 pages ; 24 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

ldquo;I have to live with my losses forever. Life after life in new bodies, new cities, and new countries where I've always been Black, not always a woman." So begins Déon's (Grace, 2016) tantalizing, intoxicating, and fantastical tale recounted by two Black women, Sarah, writing in 2102, and Lou, who is living in 1930s Los Angeles. Lou has no memory of her childhood, having awakened naked and alone in an alley with no idea of where she is and her own identity. Adopted by a foster family, she embarks on a successful journalism career, witnessing key events of the day as she writes deaths columns about the local African American community. Yet she has disturbing dreams in which she imagines other lives in Medieval Europe and East St Louis in the 1990s, and she is impelled to draw unknown faces which may or may not be people she will encounter in real life. What do these dreams and images mean? Why do her cuts, bruises, and other small injuries heal so rapidly, so that even her tattoos disappear? Why is she able to understand and speak new languages almost instantaneously? And what exactly is her connection to Sarah? Déon creates a haunting and atmospheric tale of immortality and mystery grounded in Black history and tradition.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Deón follows the critically acclaimed Grace with a provocative if unruly adventure through time featuring an immortal Black woman struggling to discover her destiny. Lou wakes up naked in an alley in 1930s Los Angeles as a teenager, with no memory of her past. Taken in by a foster family, she completes her education and becomes a journalist for the Los Angeles Times, where her beat consists of reporting on the deaths of "colored people--all shades of brown: Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Indian, Native American, and, depending on our country's mood, Irish Catholic." Among those she interviews is a petty criminal who lives in an iron lung and a firefighter whom she has no memory of having met, but whose face she has drawn again and again for years. Interwoven are flashes of other lives, among them a murderess a century in the future, and the light-skinned lover of a Chinese doctor in 1871. These others are cognizant of their connection to Lou, but she knows nothing of them, and Deón burns a lot of pages with commentary on the various historical periods before elucidating Lou's purpose. Lou does not discover who she really is, however, until the final pages, so though Deón can turn phrases in new and powerful ways, the story fails to find a satisfying ending. Deón is a very gifted writer, but this won't go down as her best work. (Nov.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

In this follow-up to Deón's New York Times best-booked debut, Grace, a Black woman named Lou awakens mostly naked and bereft of all memory in 1930s Los Angeles and goes on to become the first Black female journalist at the Los Angeles Times. Vivid flashbacks to different eras and an encounter with a downtown firefighter she's never met but whose face she has been drawing for years lead her to think that she may be an Immortal, sent to this time and place with a purpose. With comparisons to Octavia Butler and N.K. Jemisin.

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

An immortal woman delivers a love letter to Los Angeles. In Deón's lauded debut, Grace(2016), Naomi fled 19th-century Alabama slavery to hide in a Georgia brothel; in this new book, the author again channels the voice of a Black teenager on the run. Sarah Shipley, aka Louise Willard, washes up in a Los Angeles alley naked of memory and nearly all her clothes. It is 1930. "We're all on the verge of somebody else's violence," Sarah states on the opening page, speaking from the year 2102. It may take 20 pages for readers to find their bearings, but the dislocation is worth it. Deón dots her text with some superb phrasing and the knowledge that "Los Angeles has always been brown." A social worker places Lou with a seemingly kind foster family in Boyle Heights, the kind of neighborhood that prompted W.E.B. Du Bois to declare that Black Angelenos were "without a doubt the most beautifully housed group of colored people in the United States." Lou comes of age amid Prohibition and grows close to Esther Lee, an aspiring actress whose Chinese American family runs a legendary boxing gym--until Route 66 construction plows it under. Lou secures a desk in the basement of the Los Angeles Timesand a job writing features on dead folks, a juxtaposition that lets her riff on mortality even as she struggles to understand her place among the Immortals. Some of this is intriguing; other parts are a muddle. Deón has a weakness for aphorism, which can wobble into sermonettes, including the entirety of Chapter 9. She is on better footing in Mr. Lee's boxing gym, where the details are vivid. There, Lou meets a fire captain from Alabama whose face she has been drawing compulsively. This novel is sexy even if its love story breaks no ground. More memorable is Metal Wally, a bigoted student from Lou's high school who dogs her LA life. The scene at his funeral is riveting; so is a section on the catastrophic 1928 failure of the St. Francis dam. Deón, a criminal attorney, has a nose for corruption and a knack for cinematic scenes. "Passengers and beasts, it seems, we all are," she writes, "on our way to some other destination." The story of a strong woman in an unruly place is marred by a jumbled plot. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.