Title: The Deep
Author: Rivers Solomon
Publisher: Saga Press
Publication Date: 2019
Genres: Science Fiction, Afrofuturism, Contemporary, Historical
Length: 175 pages
Source: I borrowed it from the library.
Rating: 4 Stars
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.
Inspired by a song produced by the rap group Clipping for the This American Life episode “We Are In The Future,” The Deep is vividly original and uniquely affecting.
Content warning: Death of a parent and death of a child. I will not be discussing these things in my review. The quotes below were taken from the book.
Some types of pain echo through many generations.
Yetu was an amazing protagonist. Her struggles with acting as the Historian for her community made perfect sense. That burden had been placed on her shoulders at a tender age, and it honestly wasn’t something she was prepared to handle. While I can’t go any further into her backstory without giving away spoilers, I appreciated all of the work that had clearly been put into describing her personality, why she was given this role, and how it affected her both mentally and physically.
“Living without detailed long-term memories allowed for spontaneity and lack of regret, but after a certain amount of time had passed, they needed more.”
One of the things that I wish the blurb had made clearer was how the Wanjinru processed memories, especially since the plot wasn’t shared in a chronological order. Their minds didn’t work exactly the same as a human mind does for reasons that I’ll leave for future readers to discover, so Yetu often needed to repeat things to the audience as she remembered them again or thought of a detail she hadn’t included before. I liked this device a lot, but it wasn’t something I was expecting when I started reading.
The character development was quite well done. This was even more impressive given how Yetu’s memory worked. It’s definitely not easy to show someone growing and changing when they forget certain details over time, but the author pulled it off beautifully.
“We are not Wanjiru if being Wanjiru means distancing ourselves from pain.”
I do wish this book had been longer so that more time could have been spent on the world-building. Yetu both experienced and remembered some amazing events, but she needed to spend so much time repeating certain memories and making sure they were told in the right order that she simply didn’t have as much time as she needed in order to explain those events the way I wish they’d been shared with the audience. Another 50-100 pages of writing would have given me the clues I needed.
“Forgetting was not the same as healing.”
This is also something that could easily be fixed with a sequel if the author ever decides to revisit all of the incredible characters she created here. My fingers are crossed that this might happen one day.
With that being said, the ending couldn’t have been written more beautifully. I adored the way all of the important loose ends of the storyline were tied together while still leaving room for either a sequel or lots of fodder for the the imaginations of everyone who reads it.
I’ve decided to end this review with a link to the song referenced in the blurb. Comparing its version of events with what happened in the book was fascinating, especially since the song came first! It does contain spoilers, so keep that in mind while deciding when to listen to it if you’re like me and prefer to avoid spoilers.
The Deep by Clipping