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Review: ‘The Prophets’ spotlights two enslaved men in love

January 7, 2021 GMT
This cover image released by Putnam shows "The Prophets," a novel by Robert Jones Jr. (Putnam via AP)
This cover image released by Putnam shows "The Prophets," a novel by Robert Jones Jr. (Putnam via AP)

“The Prophets,” by Robert Jones Jr. (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

In Robert Jones Jr.’s “The Prophets,” Samuel and Isaiah are two enslaved men in love on a Deep South plantation. They spend their days caring for the animals in the barn, which has also become their haven. It is where they can be together, where they can retreat into one another for comfort from their daily suffering.

Samuel and Isaiah’s love is deep and tender. They have always been known as an inseparable pair, but as their romantic love is increasingly revealed to others at the plantation, they begin to find themselves in more and more danger.

“The Prophets,” Jones’ debut novel, is a marvel, as much an extraordinary queer love story as a devastating and inimitable portrayal of the agony endured by slaves in the antebellum South.

Jones’ stunning storytelling crafts deep and powerful portraits of not only Samuel and Isaiah, but also the many others at the plantation. Alternating between perspectives, each chapter is its own work of art, delving deep into each character’s heart and mind and creating a rhythmic tapestry of profound love and unbearable pain. “The Prophets” vividly depicts the viciousness of slavery while simultaneously allowing space for the love between Samuel and Isaiah.

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“The Prophets” is a novel, but feels almost like poetry, with every word holding a weight and power that will continue to astound those who lose themselves in its pages.