The Halifax plantation is known as Empty by the slaves who work it under the pitiless gaze of its overseers and its owner, Massa Paul. Two young enslaved men, Samuel and Isaiah dwell among the animals they keep in the barn, helping out in the fields when their day is done. But the barn is their haven, a space of radiance and love – away from the blistering sun and the cruelty of the toubabs – where they can be alone together.
But, Amos – a fellow slave – has begun to direct suspicion towards the two men and their refusal to bend. Their flickering glances, unspoken words and wilful intention, revealing a truth that threatens to rock the stability of the plantation. And preaching the words of Massa Paul’s gospel, he betrays them.
The culminating pages of The Prophets summon a choral voice of those who have suffered in silence, with blistering humanity, as the day of reckoning arrives at the Halifax plantation. Love, in all its permutations, is the discovery at the heart of Robert Jones Jr’s breathtaking debut, The Prophets.
It has taken me a few days to write this review. I struggled to find the right words to describe my feelings toward this book. I sobbed. I sobbed for the story, for the characters and for the people from the past, the remembered and the forgotten. What makes a story outstanding? What makes a story unforgettable? What makes a story so heart-wrenching but still, you can’t look away?
The Prophets is one of the most original, brutal, life changing and ambitious novel about slavery that I have ever read. The word I kept repeating in my head while I was reading it was “stunning!”, it is simply stunning.
Robert Jones Jr.‘s writing is so lyrical, poetic and has so much grace. With this beautiful writing comes the reality of the story: the horror of slavery, the inhumanity of the ways black people were treated, and the devastating impact of this part of the history on the generations to come. However even with all these, the center of the story is the most beautiful love and the admiration between two men. It never ceases to surprised me how love could still blossomed even under the most unimaginable and horrific circumstances. Why? Because we are humans. We long to love and long to be loved.
The Prophets has unapologetically portrait the horror of slavery but at the same time brought forth the two things that propel us through life: hope and love. It is one of the most outstanding books I have ever read. It no doubt will be on my favourite read of 2021 list.
Thank you Robert for opening your heart and writing this story. It’s truly astounding. Thank you Quercus Books for bring this book to us and gifting me this copy to review. Thank you so much!