ALC Review: The Deep by Rivers Solomon

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Yetu holds the memories for her people—water-dwelling descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slave owners—who live idyllic lives in the deep. Their past, too traumatic to be remembered regularly, is forgotten by everyone, save one—the historian. This demanding role has been bestowed on Yetu.
Yetu remembers for everyone, and the memories, painful and wonderful, traumatic and terrible and miraculous, are destroying her. And so, she flees to the surface, escaping the memories, the expectations, and the responsibilities—and discovers a world her people left behind long ago.
Yetu will learn more than she ever expected to about her own past—and about the future of her people. If they are all to survive, they’ll need to reclaim the memories, reclaim their identity—and own who they really are.

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I got the advance listening copy of this book a couple months ago and while I was very fascinated by its premise, I didn’t have any plan as to when I wanted to read it. But when I was thinking about with which book I should start my 2020, I just decided to pick this up on an impulse. And woah what a choice for the first day of a new decade.

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There’s just no easy way to describe the writing in this novella. It’s a bit too flowery for my taste, so it took me sometime to get acclimated to it, but it’s also hauntingly beautiful and emotional and made me feel a lot. Discovering the history of the wajinru, their ancestry tracing back to the pregnant African slaves thrown overboard slave ships, and how they grew to communicate and build their own world in the depths of the sea is a very interesting read. We could have definitely benefited from a little more world building but I think it’s slightly vague on purpose, going along with the story’s underlying themes of the importance of history and memories – how valuable it is to carry forward memories even when generational trauma can be painful, alleviating the pain by sharing the burden with the community, and understanding our history so that we can move on and build a better future.

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The story really rips out your heart at times and you can feel the pain and anguish and loneliness that the main character Yetu is feeling; on the other hand, you can also feel all the tenderness and flutters of a newly formed connection when Yetu encounters someone. It’s such a beautiful exploration of an unlikely relationship and I was amazed at how well it was captured in so few pages. The other relationships of her life are also well developed and we see her changing dynamic with every one of them, including her understanding of her history and her responsibility towards her people.

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In conclusion, I truly can’t tell whom I want to recommend this book to. If you enjoy fantasies which are unique and beautiful and probably weird, and leave you with lots of thoughts and emotions, maybe this one is for you. I alternated between the book and the audio and both formats worked well for me. I don’t know if I’ll ever reread it but I have a feeling I might discover something more in its words if I do.

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PS: Thank you to Libro.fm and Simon & Schuster Audio for providing me with the advance listening copy. All opinions expressed here are unbiased and solely mine.

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