Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

kindred“Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.” – Goodreads

After I finished reading Kindred by the late Octavia E. Butler, I was surprised to learn that not only was it not a recent release, but that it was actually published in 1979. Furthermore, I learned that its author classified its genre as Science Fiction. Feel free to call me biased; I would never have expected to connect with this book the way I did had I known it’s genre and publishing date. But connect I did, and in a profound way.

I don’t want to go into the content of the tale too much beyond the book summary posted above this review, in fear of including spoilers. I’ll admit that it was a bit of a stretch for me to crack open a “historical fiction” novel that included time travel – definitely not my usual sort of thing. Yet Butler does not attempt to explain the details or mechanics of the time travel in Kindred, in fact it is but a small detail of the larger story she is trying to tell; the time travel simply playing the role of allowing the tale to unfold. Instead,  Butler seems to be approaching a different question: How would a modern day person – Black or White – react if they were thrown back into the darkest days of slavery? How would he/she survive? What could they learn? And most importantly, how would their perception of these times change after personally living there?

A rich tale of love, gender, race, and responsibility, this harrowing and emotional read is also a fast-moving and action-packed novel that will keep you on the edge of your seat. When I wasn’t reading Kindred, I was thinking about it; counting the minutes until I could get back to it and read it until the very end. This was difficult to read at times because of the blatant look at the violence and tragedy of slavery, but I do believe that opening readers’ eyes to these things is a part of what Butler had intended. She is an expert at communicating knowledge through story, and I know that am better for what I read and learned in this novel. Highly recommended.

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler: Read it today!

4.5 stars

Source: Lincoln City Libraries

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