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The Perishing by Natashia Deón
Speculative fiction

The Perishing

Early Release

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by Natashia Deón

Excellent choice

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Quick take

Set in a hazy 1930s LA, this genre-bending tale of a pioneering journalist explores shifts in time, identity, and love.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Emotional

    Emotional

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SocialIssues

    Social issues

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Supernatural

    Supernatural

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_NonLinear

    Nonlinear timeline

Synopsis

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 care.

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 Depression-era 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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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of The Perishing.
The Perishing

ZERO

Sarah

My name is Sarah Shipley and I’ve slept with five women. Since I married a man, no one asks the kind of persons I choose anymore. I’ve been married six times, all of them men, all of them taken from me, by God or by man, death in all cases. My first husband is who I remember most.

First Husband was once born in 1948 and was murdered just like my third, but I wasn’t surprised. Devastated, but not surprised. We’re all on the verge of somebody else’s violence.

It used to scare people when I’d let down my guard and confess that my husbands were murdered. They would call me cursed, not unlucky. In fact, the word unlucky would only be used by those who thought I had something to do with it. “’Cause no one’s that unlucky.” So now when people ask how my husbands died, I say they stopped breathing. And for my own sake, I don’t remember the faces of those who took their breath anymore.

I was forty years old when First Husband died the first time. And in every life, forty is the age when I start losing things—memories, my glasses, my friends—the frequency of their deaths make dying pedestrian.

But not always.

Sometimes, it is life altering. Hurts me to watch the anguish of others who don’t understand it’s not always over. Not for everybody.

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Why I love it

This book has been blowing me away. The premise—and 1930s LA historic setting—piqued my interest, but Natashia Deón’s writing really brings it home! As someone who does not usually gravitate towards stories with undertones of fantasy, this book does it so tastefully that it’s hard to put it down.

The Perishing begins with a young woman who wakes up partially-clothed in an alley. Her name is Lou and she has almost no memory of how she ended up there, or really any other parts of her past. Lou is haunted by visions of a face that she begins obsessively drawing trying to put the pieces of her life together. Eventually she meets a man in a boxing gym whose face matches the one from her visions, and they quickly realize this is not the first time their paths have crossed. Together they work to uncover the mystery of Lou’s past. While this story unfolds, we also watch Lou become the LA Times’s first female journalist, breaking incredible stories of crime and greed in Prohibition-era California that makes you feel like you are right there with her… well, almost.

This novel defied all of my expectations. The story itself was so enjoyable, but the exploration of the ever shifting meaning of being a black woman in America draws renewed attention to important topics of racial equality that we continue to battle today.

Pick this one up and I promise... you will not be able to put it down!

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Member ratings (7,594)

  • Michelle G.

    Los Angeles, CA

    natasha deón’s writing is otherworldly, transmutes reality, transports you into a plane that makes you forget you’re reading—you’re just existing in the beauty/majesty her words have spun around you

  • Jessica L.

    Chicago, IL

    A powerful look at the intersection of womanhood and race. I felt empathy for the characters—even those who were villainous—as each choice is complex and suffused across many histories, many lifetimes

  • Melody N.

    Renton, WA

    So unexpected, from Deón’s figurative prose (I’ll never see a smile the same way) to the ending, I enjoyed The Perishing as it unfolded. Oh how I wish it had continued, which in itself is a good end.

  • Joy A.

    Tyler, TX

    I almost selected “like” because non-linear timelines are difficult to engage with for me. There are so many beautiful gems in this book. So much wisdom. I would love to read another from this author.

  • Tianna J.

    Idyllwild, CA

    I’d say I really liked this book. I think I’d have to read it again to get it all but I will say like holy s*** Deón is saying things that need to be said and I’ve def never read anything like it

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