Natashia Deón’s second novel, The Perishing, is both a work of compelling fiction and social commentary on the past, present, and future cycle of racial violence we find ourselves in, as a nation that birthed itself through slavery and built itself on capitalism through enslavement ... Deón is a master of historical fiction, and there is perhaps no better author to capture the historical racial violence of L.A. than one with such an enormous respect and love for the city that raised her ... Deón’s prose is evocative, visceral, and melodic. While Deón weaves the novel with lyricism, she does so with a deft touch, balancing the narrative with short punches of dialogue ... The Perishing becomes both protest and love letter, reflection and question.
If you approach it without genre-specific expectations, The Perishing is a startling, luminous love letter to Los Angeles and one of the best books of 2021 ... consistently gorgeous prose ... In its final 50 pages, The Perishing’s immortal frame narrative takes center stage again and sprints to a surprising conclusion. If you’ve enjoyed Lou’s chapters purely as historical fiction, the denouement may strike a dissonant chord. But it’s as brilliant and unprecedented as the rest of the book, sheds new light on the opening chapters, and sews all of Deón’s narrative threads back together in a uniquely satisfying way. Grace may have announced the arrival of a singular new voice, but The Perishing does not sit in its shadow; it burns as bright as the Hollywoodland sign once did, 'studded with four thousand light bulbs.'
The existential distance traveled during Lou’s evolution into Sarah is vast, but Deón closes the gap by presenting her main character as if she is a folktale character caught in someone else’s story—her finger defiantly pressed into the chest of the reader, determined to fashion her own ending ... The Perishing is full of language that is accomplishing multiple feats at once. One of which is being able to capture the visceral and emotional backdrop of a moment that translates throughout the book ... too powerful to ever be forgotten.