I literally don’t even know how to review The Deep. It’s an absolute masterpiece packed into a tiny package. It’s heavy and sharp, but so beautiful. I can sum it up best by saying that this is without a doubt a book that accomplishes every single thing it sets out to do.
I’ll start with a word of caution: don’t pick up this book if you want a fluffy mermaid story or a whimsical aquatic fantasy. Don’t read this if you want a traditional, linear narrative. This story is none of these things. I’ve seen many low reviews based on mismanaged expectations, so I want to nip that in the bud from the start.
The Deep takes a look at what might happen if the pregnant slaves thrown overboard during the slave trade gave birth to a community of people who adapted to survive underwater. It takes the brutal murder of stolen people and flips it into an escape to a world of freedom from captivity and predatory human nature. Because of this new culture’s origins, The Deep tackles how intergenerational trauma impacts societal norms. Through the protagonist’s eyes readers also explore what it is to confront one’s individual trauma while still immersed in communal trauma. Sense of belonging, responsibility to community and culture, and the journey to self-discovery all play major thematic roles in this book.
Needless to say, this content is HEAVY. And yet it’s written so poetically, so beautifully that as a reader you almost don’t even mind it. It’s a story that’s crafted with such sharp edges that you sit there smiling in wonder without even realizing you’re bleeding. I’ve never read anything like it. I’m thoroughly convinced that Solomon chose the perfect word without fail every single sentence, every single time. No one could pull this off like they did.
Solomon employs a really unique storytelling structure that gives the reader the feel of an oral storytelling experience. The story bounces around a bit introducing new characters and occasionally backtracking to revisit earlier pieces. Although very different from a traditional narrative, it’s still reasonably simple to follow along and just adds to that oral storytelling style. At times this left me feeling very connected to our protagonist and her community, while at other times I felt more like I was listening to a documentary about a culture- learning all about where they came from, how they live, and how they function as a society. While these offer very contrasting experiences as a reader, Solomon somehow moves between the two seamlessly. I rarely noticed the transition and spent most of the time completely immersed and swept wherever the story chose to take me.
I experienced the audio version as read by Daveed Diggs, which was a treat in itself. I literally want him to read everything now.
Overall, The Deep offers a really unique reading journey that explores a previously uncharted premise. It’s well-crafted and reads like an absolute dream. It’s beautiful and transformative, while also being painfully sharp and incredibly heavy. I feel like this story works best when the reader knows what they are getting into, but I won’t hesitate to recommend it widely.