The Prophets is an absorbing novel, with unsettling overtones, profound and deeply moving. Masterfully written in beautiful poetic prose it enriches the soul through the dreams and expression of love amidst the most repressive and abusive life imaginable.
“Blessèd be the ones who gaze upon the night and holy are the ones who remember. And memory is not enough! To know from beneath: That is a story only a prophet can tell. But with the world being what it is and the world being what it forever will be, never without a grieving heart. Here is the fire now: dancing, destroying. But honestly only wanting to be sung to softly sweetly. It is a dying flame shrinking flickering waiting to be extinguished finally by a lullaby. But there are no singers left.”
The pain and horror experienced by black slaves will continue to echo through time as books like The Prophets continue to tell their story. The inhumane treatment of people who only dream of survival, and avoiding the wrath and cruel entertainment of plantation owners is appalling. How much further could you descend when you are already at the bottom. Yet slaves continued to survive, continued to find love, continued to share their lives with others, and found a dignity that was so far from the character of their owners, that it bestows unreserved reverence for the generations that suffered.
Samuel and Isaiah are slaves on the Halifax cotton plantation, in the Deep South, a place referred to as Empty. The perfect name for a place that strips away your freedom, dignity, peace, happiness and all too evidently, your life. Both men find love with each other and have so much to lose if discovered. Maggie is aware of their relationship and so much of what happens on the plantation. She shares food, advice and as much awareness as possible, especially as she has a gift of foresight. Maggie works in the Big House for Paul and Ruth Halifax, owners who are ruthless, brutal, and cynically manipulative. The great cast of characters are all full of light and shade, and to tell the story from the different character perspectives, gives it a superb observational capacity that is truly epic.
The relationships and the subtle yet distinctive interactions, the dialogue, and the menacing overtones achieve an experience that coalesces such beauty and such sadness. The ending is powerful and as it ends it is worth taking a moment to hold this story in quiet reverence.
I could not help feeling certain similarities to Sing, Unburied, Sing – not from the storyline perspective, but the emotional impact the story elicits, and the lyrical writing that evokes such vivid images that are forever etched into our minds. The Prophets is a book that is unforgettable and will surely spend considerable time on bestseller lists, and will justly receive nominations and awards recognition for outstanding literature.
I would highly recommend this book and I would like to thank Quercus Books, Riverrun and NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC in return for an honest review.