24 November 2010

KIndred by Octavia E. Butler

One of the things that I like so much about Goodreads in addition to the fact that it has exposed me to books from all over, is that it has also exposed me to people from around the world, both authors and others. These people, then, have turned me on or pointed me toward other books and authors that I, either never would have known about otherwise, or never would have considered. This book falls into the latter category. I am not familiar with the author, and as such, this book was not on my radar. Then I met Cam through one of my Goodreads reading groups. In fact, she was one of the first friends that I made on Goodreads, and she has steered me towards some really good reads. When our group picked Time Travel as the shelf we were going to read from for the month of November 2010, Cam recommended this book as one of her favorites, so I thought I would give it a try. I am so glad that I did. 

Dana is an African American (or as she says "black") woman living in Los Angeles in 1976. At the beginning of the book, Dana and her husband, Kevin, are moving into a new house when Dana suddenly feel dizzy and nauseous. When her vision clears, she is in front of a river watching a child who is drowning. She saves him, only to be set upon, first by his mother, and then by his father. They seem to see Dana as a threat, although she doesn't know why. What Dana doesn't know at this point, is that she has been transported back in time to the Antebellum South to save the life of a white plantation owner's son. 

The book continues through several more "occurrences" where Dana is transported back to the south at different times during the man's life, whenever he is in trouble. As I read, I found myself thinking what an incredibly creative way for the author to write a historical fiction book about slavery in the Antebellum South. That is what this book is mainly. It is a book about slavery, told from the point of view of a "modern" black woman who is immersed in the everyday workings of a Southern plantation without any of the history or beliefs that allow one to survive in that situation. The contrasts between her attitudes and beliefs, those of the black slaves on the plantation, and those of the white slave owners are wonderfully done. This mechanism allows the author to illuminate for us this time of American history, warts and all, without sounding preachy or overdone. As Cam said in her review, I both loved this book and loathed it in turns, but I loved it more than I loathed it. Butler did such a wonderful job of crafting her characters that I really came to care about, not only the slaves, but the white slave owner and his family as well. 

I would say this book is a MUST READ, especially if you liked The Time Traveler's Wife. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Audrey Niffenegger got her idea for that book from this one. Once again, Cam, thanks for the recommendation, and keep 'em coming!