- The Prophets by Robert Jones Jnr -
Updated: Jan 10
Published : 5th January 2021
Publisher : RiverRun
Format : Kindle, Audio, Hardback, Paperback
Genre : Historical Romance
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A stunning debut novel about the forbidden union between two enslaved young men on a Deep South plantation, the refuge they find in each other, and a betrayal that threatens their existence.
Halifax plantation is known as Empty by the slaves who work it under the pitiless gaze of its overseers and its owner, Massa Paul. Two young enslaved men, Samuel and Isaiah dwell among the animals they keep in the barn, helping out in the fields when their day is done. But the barn is their haven, a space of radiance and love - away from the blistering sun and the cruelty of the toubabs - where they can be alone together.
But, Amos - a fellow slave - has begun to direct suspicion towards the two men and their refusal to bend. Their flickering glances, unspoken words and wilful intention, revealing a truth that threatens to rock the stability of the plantation.
And preaching the words of Massa Paul's gospel, he betrays them.
Thank you @Quercus for this beautiful advanced copy
Told over a multi narrative between slavers and slaves, each in turn describe their lives, thoughts and feelings. Also there are chapters inbetween of other short stories going back that co inside with black people being brought to slavery, I found this absolutely fascinating.
Empty isn’t somewhere you’d choose to be, it’s where, because of their colour, the unlucky people have ended up, having been forced from their home, sometimes even torn from their distraught mother’s arms and the place they feel safe and loved.
The story is mainly centred around two young slaves, Samuel and Isaiah.
These two young men have grown up together since finding each other in childhood on the plantation and as the years passed, growing up together, fell in love. In those hard times love, forbidden or not, was very hard to come by in a place that squeezes the life and soul out of even the strongest of people.
Amongst the array of voices in this book one of the characters that stuck out for me was Maggie, she was like a mother to the two boys, even though they kept away and to them selves sleeping and working within the barn, she would often bring them extra snippets of food and treat them with a mutual kindness that they also showed her.
You also get to read a little about the magic that surrounds the women and the old ways in which they were brought up. Maggie has one of these gifts, seeing things happen before they actually do. She herself is a cook and house keeper for the Master and is always having to look over her shoulder on the look out for danger.
Horrific things have befallen her in the past that she does not want to happen again so she tries to make herself seen as little as possible.
The boys ultimately can not hide away forever and it isnt long before the master is trying to marry them off and stud them out to make stronger off spring that he can grow into more slaves, the boys do not want this to happen and try everything they can including escape to avoid separation.
Why I Loved It
If there was ever a tough book to review its this one.
I have written and deleted this post more then once and if im honest im still not happy with the end result. I just can not seem to sum up in words what I want to say.
Considering it took the author thirteen years to write this book im not surprised that im struggling to write a review.
With everything you expect to come from slavery, the pain, the misery, and the extreme hardship, let alone the constant reminder that you are nothing, you are a worthless tool only good for doing as your told makes you marvel at the courage and perseverance required to both live and survive the cruelty and abuse.
Though this story portrays a truly horrific time in history, and the life lived in slavery was extremely cruel, this story captivates you and holds you all the way through the good and the bad with its endearing story of love.
This is a truly magnificent debut and an unequivocally outstanding story.
Meet the author
Robert Jones, Jr., was born and raised in New York City. He received his BFA in creative writing with honors and MFA in fiction from Brooklyn College. He has written for numerous publications, including The New York Times, Essence, Okay Africa, The Feminist Wire, and The Grio.
He is the creator of the social justice social media community Son of Baldwin. Jones was recently featured in T Magazine‘s cover story, “Black Male Writers of Our Time.” The Prophets is his debut novel.
Connect with Robert
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