Written by Sophie
One of the first claims in Always Come Home is that it is an archaeology of the future. Pandora, from the now, visits and spends a prolonged time with the Kesh, a people settled along a mountainous river valley in future California. She listens to their stories and poems, joins their Dances and rites, watches their plays, and records everything she learns in detail. The whole book reads like a cultural anthropologist’s carefully collected notes, with one long narrative strand, the story of Stone Telling, running like a stream that binds the whole together.
Always Come Home is, simply put, absolutely extraordinary. Each time I read something by Ursula K. Le Guin I think “she cannot possibly top this”, and each time she thumbs her nose at me and proves me wrong! All the various components – poems, descriptions of rituals, personal histories, an explanation of the lay-out of the villages, descriptions of different future societies living alongside the Kesh – combines to form an overwhelmingly intricate experience. By the end of the book I felt I was living in this imagined future.
In fact, I wish I was. The combination of technology (sparsely used, only when absolutely necessary) with an unquestioning certainty that we human beings are connected to every other being around us, living or dead or inert or AI, and the belief that all those beings deserve to be treated with respect and kindness, felt deeply right to me.
Always Come Home, indeed; I’ve seldom felt a book speak to my being like this. If we humans aimed to tread the world as considerately as this, we might make it out of our own crises yet. Heya, heya, heya, heya.
P.S.: First published on Instagram