Just finished: Kindred by Octavia Butler


Here’s the blurb:

Having just celebrated her 26th birthday in 1976 California, Dana, an African-American woman, is suddenly and inexplicably wrenched through time into antebellum Maryland. After saving a drowning white boy there, she finds herself staring into the barrel of a shotgun and is transported back to the present just in time to save her life.
During numerous such time-defying episodes with the same young man, she realizes the challenge she’s been given: to protect this young slaveholder until he can father her own great-grandmother.

My thoughts:

This is a classic for a reason. The story is compelling and consuming. You never know what is going to happen, but you can be sure it will be brutal. It was interesting to read this book for the first time in 2016 and it made me wonder how much differently it would have been read if I had read it when I was younger, or if I had been able to read it as an adult when it was released in 1979.

Kevin and Dana are a mixed race couple only 10 years after the Loving case was decided. They were facing racism in their own time and now Dana was getting pulled back into slavery. And still, there were times when I wanted to shake her and tell her to wake up. She kept thinking the white folks were going to live up to their image in her mind, even after stooping low time and time again.

The dialogue was stellar, so was the world building. The distinction between times was clear even for an audio book reader. The plot was furiously paced. There was never a boring moment, and you always want to know what was going to happen next. I wish there had been more structure for the magic of the book. It was hinted that the reason Dana kept giving white people, Rufus in particular, second chances was related to the magic that was also throwing her back and forth in time. The time intervals seemed completely random which made this side effect of the magic also seem to come out of left field.

I would recommend this to anyone that enjoys historical fiction, time travel stories, or classic sci-fi/fantasy. It is a fast read even on audiobook, clocking in at only 10 hours (translates to about 1 week of commuting for me). I am also reading Devil in a Blue Dress from Walter Moseley right now and these two books go hand-in-hand. I’ll have a review up for the Moseley piece soon.

Overall: 4 stars

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