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Sorrowland: A Novel by Rivers Solomon
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Sorrowland: A Novel (edition 2021)

by Rivers Solomon (Author)

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7232631,836 (3.8)25
A triumphant, genre-bending breakout novel from one of the boldest new voices in contemporary fiction Vern--seven months pregnant and desperate to escape the strict religious compound where she was raised--flees for the shelter of the woods. There, she gives birth to twins, and plans to raise them far from the influence of the outside world. But even in the forest, Vern is a hunted woman. Forced to fight back against the community that refuses to let her go, she unleashes incredible brutality far beyond what a person should be capable of, her body wracked by inexplicable and uncanny changes. To understand her metamorphosis and to protect her small family, Vern has to face the past, and more troublingly, the future--outside the woods. Finding the truth will mean uncovering the secrets of the compound she fled but also the violent history in America that produced it. Rivers Solomon'sSorrowland is a genre-bending work of Gothic fiction. Here, monsters aren't just individuals, but entire nations. It is a searing, seminal book that marks the arrival of a bold, unignorable voice in American fiction.… (more)
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Title:Sorrowland: A Novel
Authors:Rivers Solomon (Author)
Info:MCD (2021), 368 pages
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Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon

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» See also 25 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
So this was a bit unusual read for me. First part really interested me, it was different. Second part still went on strong as we get things revealed, but then the last part was kinda eh. Maybe a bit too chaotic, too experimental? It certainly gave me some things to think about thought. 3,5 ( )
  Levitara | Apr 5, 2024 |
Sorrowland is a novel that exists at the intersection of several subgenres. I'm tempted to categorize it as one of my favorites, "badass moms having shitty adventures." This book has the bildungsroman energy of The Bean Trees, if you replace the sweet women's fiction vibe of Kingsolver with the gritty dystopias of The Road or Parable of the Sower. I'm omitting at least three other literary influences, but this at least gets you in the right neighborhood.

The book opens with Vern, a teenaged parent and fugitive from a Black nationalist enclave called Cainland. Vern leverages her survivalist upbringing to subsist with her children in the woods, then sets off to find allies and decode the lasting effects of Cainland on her body and psyche. There's spooky transhumanism, and queer romance, and the legacy of medical racism, and GHOSTS.

This was a fast-paced read for me; I so appreciate the way that Solomon blends a literary sensibility with genre-forward storytelling. And I really liked Vern, a flawed parent and unwilling hero whose relationship with her two young children is one of the most remarkable elements of this already remarkable book. Howling and Feral are precocious, as children in SFF novels often are, but their relationships with Vern and one another feel true and fully realized; among this book's theses is the proposition that children are people, rather than physical/emotional appendages to adults.

Sorrowland is a novel about Blackness and queerness, and the haunted inheritances of these identities. Here the novel returns to more familiar literary territory, but nevertheless manages to feel fresh and improvisational, particularly when it gives us one of the Most. Remarkable. Sex Scenes. ever committed to paper. The ghosts of Sorrowland feel like a meditation, among other things, on the power of storytelling, the danger and ecstasy of daring to commune with the dead.

The conclusion of this novel didn't exactly have the shape I expected. Part of this is the Problem of Villains, and how as a reader, I can never pin down exactly what I want from villains, a detailed explication of their psychology or a nod to the banality of evil or something else entirely. So I found the book's villain plausible but not entirely satisfying. Additionally, there's a lot of backstory that gets revealed in the last act, making it feel somewhat divorced from the rest of the novel. (At the same time, this feels absolutely right—generally you are minding your own business, struggling to raise your kids and reckon with your traumas, when your past abruptly lands on you like a cartoon anvil and demands a transformation.)

This book is weird as heck, and deeply felt and deeply human. I'm very glad I picked it up.

I received this ARC from MCD Books and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
  raschneid | Dec 19, 2023 |
Really intense.. like nothing I've ever read. Vern, her family and Cainland will occupy my thoughts for some time. (A big thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the advance copy! ( )
  decaturmamaof2 | Nov 22, 2023 |
Thank you to NetGalley and MCD for giving me an arc of this book.

Sorrowland is a glittering yet haunting tale of a woman’s fight for survival as she faces the demons of her past and the monsters lurking in her future. From the very first page, I was enthralled by the lush writing style of this novel. Even when I was not sure where Solomon was going to take the book next, I was pulled into this story and did not want to leave it. In fact, I finished it in two sittings, not wanting to put it down. The three-part sections of this novel were very compelling as they became a reflection of Vern and her metamorphosis. And with every new development and plot twist, I was tugged deeper into the world Solomon created. The relationships portrayed were raw and evocative, and I adored the found family trope. I was touched by every bit of care; and wounded by every heartache. I have nothing but praise for Sorrowland and the wondrous creature it is. ( )
  androgynoid | Jul 11, 2023 |
Helped fill the hole left behind by Toni Morrison's passing. ( )
  tmilaandlc | Apr 9, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
"Solomon’s outstanding third novel (after The Deep) revisits the themes of memory and responsibility through two new lenses: horror and contemporary thriller. ... They display a maturing control of their craft, employing a breathtaking range of reference that will enable any reader, from horror geek to Derridean academic, to engage with this thrilling tale. This is a tour de force."
added by zembla | editPublishers Weekly (Jan 22, 2021)
 

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rivers Solomonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Chilton, KarenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kagan, AbbyDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Oriolo, RichardPhotographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To everyone I ever will be, and ever was.
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The child gushed out from twixt Vern's legs ragged and smelling of salt.
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A triumphant, genre-bending breakout novel from one of the boldest new voices in contemporary fiction Vern--seven months pregnant and desperate to escape the strict religious compound where she was raised--flees for the shelter of the woods. There, she gives birth to twins, and plans to raise them far from the influence of the outside world. But even in the forest, Vern is a hunted woman. Forced to fight back against the community that refuses to let her go, she unleashes incredible brutality far beyond what a person should be capable of, her body wracked by inexplicable and uncanny changes. To understand her metamorphosis and to protect her small family, Vern has to face the past, and more troublingly, the future--outside the woods. Finding the truth will mean uncovering the secrets of the compound she fled but also the violent history in America that produced it. Rivers Solomon'sSorrowland is a genre-bending work of Gothic fiction. Here, monsters aren't just individuals, but entire nations. It is a searing, seminal book that marks the arrival of a bold, unignorable voice in American fiction.

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