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Kindred Kindle Edition
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|Length: 306 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
|Page Flip: Enabled||
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|Part of: Bluestreak (16 Books)|
|Grade Level: 09 - 12|
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About the Author
- Publication date : February 1, 2004
- File size : 1234 KB
- Publisher : Beacon Press (February 1, 2004)
- Print length : 306 pages
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Language: : English
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- ASIN : B009U9S540
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #14,069 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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In Kindred, Dana, a modern young African American writer who recently married an older white man, gets mysteriously transported back in time to a pre-Civil War plantation owned by the family of her oldest known relative, Rufus. Dana is called back to save Rufus’s life over and over again, presumably preserving her own life in the process. What happens to her in the past stays with her in a very real way.
This novel is incredible. I couldn’t put it down. It was written in 1979, but it could have been written last year. Elements of Butler’s own life and frustrations with race issues during her life shine through in parts.
This novel deals with love, familial connection, loss, time travel, slavery, and the complex emotions that arise when these things interconnect. To quote Dana:
"Strangely, they seemed to like him, hold him in contempt, and fear him all at the same time. This confused me because I felt just about the same mixture of emotions for him myself. I had thought my feelings were complicated because he and I had such a strange relationship. But then, slavery of any kind fostered strange relationships. Only the overseer drew simple, unconflicting emotions of hatred and fear when he appeared briefly. But then, it was part of the overseer’s job to be hated and feared while the master kept his hands clean."
This is a great book. It makes the deep personal toll slavery takes on its victims very real. I’m seeking out more of Octavia Butler’s books in the near future.
The novel is set in 1976 in California. African American Dana is newly married to white guy Will. They are both writers, he more successful. They move into a new home. Dana feels dizzy and poof—there she is in antebellum Maryland saving a white boy named Rufus from drowning. Task accomplished and she returns home, finding that she was gone for only a few seconds in 1979 but for a longer spell in the 1800’s. Rufus is the young son of a plantation and slave owner and is also a distant relation to Dana. Whenever he is in danger (which is often) she is somehow summoned to save him. Her visits to the south last for longer periods of time and sometimes her husband Will accompanies her. Dana believes she must continue to save Rufus otherwise he will not be alive to father a child with a slave; that child being one of Dana’s ancestors. No Rufus, no Dana. Dana obviously does not fit in and passes herself off as a free black from the north, though Will is her “master” and lover. On the plantation she is often treated as a slave because there is nothing more threatening to slave owners than an educated black woman. She herself is often in danger and suffers atrocities along with the other slaves.
This was a quick read and an interesting story, but I did not love it. I’m not a fan of time travel in novels, but that was a very minor part of the story. It was fairly easily accepted by all involved, including those on the plantation. Most of the book takes place on the plantation and these are the most compelling sections. That said, I don’t think that those scenes were much different than any other book set in that period. Toni Morrison and Kathleen Grissom (The Kitchen House and Glory Over Everything) are much better writers. Also, some of the interesting dynamics were not explored in enough depth for me. Dana’s love/hate relationship with Rufus, her relationship with her white husband both in current and past times, and her fear that her husband would be altered by his exposure to conventions in the early 1800’s. In fairness, this book was written in 1979 and the author may have gone as far as one could go with those issues. This book is 3.5 stars for me. I am unlikely to read another of Ms. Butler’s books.
Top reviews from other countries
The writing was simplistic and easily readable. It didn't require much concentration or dedication to get through and I wasn't expecting that. I don't know if I am disappointed because my expectations were too high, or because the author approached the important topics of race relations and slavery using such simplistic language and writing style.
I went into it with something more complex in mind, a deeper hard to read story and message, but I feel it was overly simplified and somewhat dumbed down in order to entertain or make it a lighter read. I highly doubt it was used as a plot device for entertainment purposes, but at times it felt that way. Perhaps it's a victim of its time, had it been written more recently this wouldn't have been the case as today's readers are more open to the truth of the brutality and realism of slavery.
The above makes it sound like I didn't enjoy it, I did and I'm keen to read more by Octavia Butler, but I'm left with questions. The time travel just happens, there's no explanation given for Dana being pulled back in time. How was Rufus able to pull Dana back to his time? What effect did her interactions with her past relatives have on her present timeline, family, and bloodline?
Although it is tricky to describe and review, I urge you to buy a copy! You won’t be disappointed.
It is June 9th 1976, Dana’s 26th birthday when she first meets Rufus. She saves his life from drowning in the river and is met with the threat of death via the barrel of a gun!
Dana then reappears in the modern day (1976). Was this a dream? An hallucination? Dana desperately tries to piece it all together. Rufus’s southern accent, the scenery etc.
Dana continues to be drawn and pulled back into the past every time Rufus encounters trouble. When Dana plays close attention to Rufus’s language and the dialogue of his conversations, she then realises, she is in a dark era of time. Dana is being transported back to 1815. Also not just any location but the Weylin Plantation where 38 slaves are held. This is an extremely dangerous era for Dana to be pulled into.
‘The possibility of meeting a white adult here frightened me, more than the possibility of street violence ever had at home’ – Dana
‘Paperless blacks were fair game for any white’
In the modern day (1976) Dana is married to Kevin Franklin. The story of who they met and fell in love is incorporated into the story. He is the only person to have physically witnessed Dana’s journeys into the past and has deep concern. It may be worth noting Dana is African American and Frank is white. Something Rufus refuses to believe, when she attempts to explain the future to him.
‘Rufus fear of death calls me to him, and my own fear of death sends me home’ – Dana
There are violent scenes and scenes where you see the KKK in all their evil glory. They are painful to read but describe the violence and dehumanisation that was inflicted upon slaves and free black people in 1815.
‘Strength. Endurance. To survive, my ancestors had to put up with more than I ever could. Much more’ – Dana
In the lucid moments in the present day (1976) Dana and her husband frantically search for a link between her past and Rufus’s. Their research leads them to believe there is in fact a biological connection of some sort between Dana and Rufus but how?
‘I was the worse possible guardian for him – a black to watch over him in a society that considered blacks subhuman. A woman to watch over him in a society that considered women perennial children’
This is a powerful novel. It is intelligent and generates deep thought. The hierarchy of slavery and violence is fully explored.
I shall leave some of the thought-provoking quotes I noted below. 5*
‘I never realised how easily people could be trained to accept slavery’ – Dana
‘There was no shame in raping a black woman, but there could be shame in loving one’
‘It was so easy to advise other people to live with their pain’ – Dana
‘I had no enforceable rights. None at all’ – Dana
Having said that it is still a good book. My main issue is that it is one of those books where the main protagonist is looking back at what has happened. As soon as that happens, the feelings of danger which would have been much stronger are diminished as you know she must survive. It is probably a 7 out of 10 book for me but 3 out of 5 feels much too low hence the mark of 4.
The time travel aspect of the book is almost secondary to the rest of the story, which is really interesting. Kindred is about a woman from the 1970s getting called back in time to save the life of her white, slave owning ancestor from the early 19th century. She watches a young and mostly innocent boy grow up to be all the terrible things a slave owner was, and she has to make some horrific decisions in the process.
There's so much in this book about relationships between different sets; the plantation owner's wife whose said to be white trash, the difference between the field hands and house slaves, the physical relationship between a plantation owner and female slaves.
Some of the details and personal tales are horrifying but it's not filled with gratuitous violence.
My edition (the 25th anniversary one) had a critical essay at the end too, which was a great read and it enriched the novel for me even more.
The characterisation and dialogue are strong and well handled, and the story is fascinating. I wanted to score it 4.5, only because it took some time to absorb me, unlike Lilith's Brood which is one of my all-time favourite reads.