So this week's shop pick was RECORD KEEPER by Agnes Gomillion. I have thoughts. Lots of 'em!
Note to y'all: This is *not* the book to read if you don't want to be PRESSED. Because bay-bay, this book got my heart pumping. Now let me tell you why!
Arika Cobane. Sometimes when you pick up a book, the protagonist just screams main character energy. She's a brilliant young woman, broken by the oppressive rules of a world that values life beneath the "greater good". Arika's also in training to be a Record Keeper -- someone who records the biographies of their people to preserve their history. Arika, Arika, Arika! I won't give away much, but I will tell you, you will be SCREAMING at Arika throughout the book. Now listen -- Arika Cobane is not a dumb character. She's smart, but damaged. Think about it -- imagine growing up in a world where you are told over and over that the world MUST operate in a certain way for the greater good of all and some random person pops into your life and tells you different. Arika Cobane must contend with the world she knew and trusted splitting apart in the face of the true reality she must learn to accept. But here's the thing -- Arika Cobane is so STUBBORN that you'll wish you could reach into the pages of the book and smack her. Or maybe at the very least leave you wishing you could rescue her damaged inner child and spare her from the trauma of the world they live in.
Slavery. The Record Keeper is a speculative tale in which the world has returned to relying on slave labor, only in this future, it has become nefariously reimagined. First Brothers are the lighter skinned, more euro-centric of the black people in this world -- they are tasked with caring for their "Second Brothers" the labour enslaved class of people who are darker skinned and believed to be less intelligent. These Second Brothers are forced annually to take a pill that robs them of the memories of their forced labour, as well as their loved ones. Readers, it will never NOT be tough to read the depiction of slavery -- although Gomillion doesn't delve gratuitously deep into the details, she doesn't have to. The reason why this terrible world of labour, pills, death, and torture is bearable is because of Gomillion's stubborn insistence on highlighting the human dignity of the Second Brothers. Every character who suffers is human first -- Gomillion takes the time to wrought characters that we all recognize. Beyond their pain, they are sisters, brothers, fathers, and mothers first who persevere with whatever tools they have left -- song, laughter, worship, and stories.
The ending. Cliff hangers usually happen in one of two ways. The writer is kind enough to give you a bit of build up so your subconscious can prepare you for what's coming...OR the writer doesn't. RECORD KEEPER is the latter, meaning, you will probably holler at the book when you're done. At least, that's exactly what I did when I finished the book. Gomillion's exit to RECORD KEEPER isn't ungraceful to be clear -- in fact it's quite the opposite in that it opens up a whole world of possibilities I can't for her to explore in the sequel. And the good news is that it's coming soon! Gomillion's The Seed of Cain comes out in June 2021 and readers, you best believe I will grabbing a few copies to stock in store because I have questions. In the next book, I'm really looking forward to Gomillion continuing to explore the themes of redemption, human dignity, loyalty, and slavery. She's got some very poignant thoughts on the matter, made obvious in RECORD KEEPER, but I know there's a lot more to explore!
Tl;dr -- An engaging post apocalyptic world. Slavery re-imagined. A stubborn young woman destined to change the future. A page-turner that'll have you racing to flip to the next page. You'll definitely yell at the end of the book, but the good news is Agnes Gomillion is already working on the sequel.
What book from the Miss Read shelf should I read and review next? Comment your suggestions below!