It’s so incredibly comforting when another person can so articulately put into words something you cannot and reading those words at a time when you really truly need to. This is my experience with Katherine May’s writing—in her book Wintering, which I loved more than I can say when I read it in the fall of 2020, in her book The Electricity of Every Living Thing which I read last year, and her newest book Enchantment which was just released on February 28.
In Enchantment, May shares moments from her life that seem ordinary to most, but also transport you somewhere. Not necessarily to the place she’s describing (although sometimes that is the case) but to your own place where you hope to remember a mundane moment as a moment of wonder.
In each chapter of the book, you’re urged to experience things that activate you on a physiological level not necessarily on a thinking level, something that my counselor spoke to me about just days before listening to Enchantment. May says, ‘When we want to escape the surface, we activate our bodies and they show us a different intelligence; point to a mind that resides not just in the head.’ This is how to find enchantment in the world, joy in the small wonderful things. In simply being, not always doing. The book is a reminder that you have to be willing and open to experience every single day. Not only that, but also open to being taught something by those experiences.
Personally, I don’t think I have ever experienced burnout so intense as what has been creeping in these past few months. A seemingly unending exhaustion and unknowing of how to help myself. This is a topic May covers throughout the book in response to the pandemic: “I am only just beginning to understand my burnout was the result of multiple losses each one so small that I thought it didn’t matter…And I was surprised to find there was nothing left of me.”
This book could not have come into my life at a more fitting time and I will continue to revisit it, and the wisdom within it, often.
Octavia E. Butler is one of the greatest storytellers I have ever read, and I cannot recommend her books highly enough. I say this at the start because I am writing a recommendation for Parable of the Sower, but only because I feel it’s a great starting point for Butler’s work, and it wouldn’t be feasible for me to write a recommendation for everything she’s ever written.
Parable of the Sower is a dystopian novel set in the world after climate change and economic crises leave the world collapsed and dangerous. The novel follows a young girl named Lauren Olamina, the daughter of a preacher who suffers from possibly the worst condition one could in such a bleak world: hyperempathy. What begins as an attempt to convince her community to stop ignoring the imminent threats that surrounds them turns into the creation of a new faith, led by her.
Parable of the Sower is an often bleak novel that ruminates on community, faith, love, and change. Butler doesn’t pull punches in her depiction of a world so full of danger and loss that it can often feel brutal. But at the same time, she weaves in moments of hope throughout the narrative that will keep you going through the novel. This book is a labor to read, and not an especially useful tool for escapists, but it is one of the most worthwhile stories you can pick up.