Parable of the Talents is the sequel to Parable of the Sower, and I found I liked this one even better than the first. Lauren, going by Olamina now, finds more success and more trouble in this second installment in the duology. She and Bankole have their beautiful daughter, Larkin, and they revel in the sweetness of having their own child now that their settlement has grown into a small community. Acorn really is thriving, with new members joining often and resources coming in to them. Neighbors want to share the knowledge that Acorn members possess, and Olamina is ready and willing to give it to them in the hopes that they’ll jump on board with her Earthseed goals. Many of them do, she is rather seductive in her missions.
Introduced as well to Parable of the Talents is the narrative voice of a more grown up Larkin, and Larkin chooses to include writing from other sources as well, including Bankole and Olamina’s brother Marcus. Olamina finds Marcus while helping a friend locate his siblings, and she gives him a second chance at life. Freed from slavery, he is free to stay with Olamina at Acorn or travel on as he pleases, although I feel like we all know what Olamina would prefer. The additional narratives provide external input on why people follow Olamina. Viewing her through this critical lens provides an extra oomph that Butler was not able to provide through just the journals of the first book. Readers are privy to her flaws more clearly, and called upon to really think about the impact Olamina has on her family and on those in her community.
Additionally, I found the pacing of this book to be much more heart-wrenching than the first book was. Many people die, and hope feels almost lost, yet Olamina holds on to her hope with a little help from her friends. Everywhere she travels, she is able to find someone here or there who is willing to support her in her quest.
The family dynamics throughout are fascinating. We see multiple perspectives of how it all plays out, and the conspiracy theories Marcus, Larkin, and Olamina have towards each other. They wonder what life might have been if certain events hadn’t overtaken their lives, and they press forward with who they are now and the beliefs they each hold. As I am partial to character driven novels, I found this book to be astounding in the continually developed depth of each of the characters.