*bought e-book from Amazon*
Rating: 5 Skulls/Grade A++
Time travel is so cool! What beats traveling back several hundred years in to the arms of a handsome Scottish highlander … or traveling back in time to meet your spouse while she is still a child … or traveling in time to solve a supernatural mystery in an attempt to save the future … or traveling back in time to learn of the world’s beginning or forward to witness its collapse. There are so many different ways time travel can come in to play in a story. I honestly thought I had seen and read them all when it came to time travel, but I could not have been more wrong. I had never before read a time travel novel, where the main character travels to an incredibly dangerous and distasteful time. The set-up of Kindred could not be more extreme – the main character is a young African American woman who is, repeatedly and without any control of her own, sent back in time to the antebellum south where she finds herself enmeshed in relationships on a plantation occupied and run by slave-owners and slaves. As an African American woman, such a trip into the past is not an easy one, nor is it safe. Each trip back becomes increasingly dangerous and more disturbing. But who was safe during that time period? Definitely not blacks, whether free or slave. Kindred does not shy away from telling their stories.
Kindred was published in 1979, yet for some sad reason I only recently discovered the author, Octavia Butler. Having finished Kindred in the space of two days, I intend to hunt down each and every book written by her. She is not an author I want to miss out on. Occasionally, reading a book written and published decades ago, particularly in the science fiction genre, makes the book less accessible and less enjoyable. This is absolutely not the case with Kindred. Kindred pulled me in from page one, the main character – Dana – seemed real; she seemed modern. Her thoughts, her concerns and her actions were not dissimilar from my own. Dana is a writer, who is married to another writer. They are a mixed raced couple living in Los Angeles. Their status as a mixed couple becomes important as the story progresses; it is a factor that allows the story to be broader than just Dana’s experience. The pace of the book is intense and I could not put it down. I was pulled in and terrified at almost every step for Dana. Terrified for her well-being and for her life. Terrified that she would never see her husband again. Shocked at the brutality of the events as they unfolded.
Time travel and science fiction are labels that work to make this book seem more whimsical than it is. Kindred addresses heavy topics between the front and back covers – freedom, love, ownership, and survival. How does an individual survive in an atmosphere where every minute puts them at risk? How does an individual survive in a situation where their survival comes at the cost of another’s loss of family and loss of life. How does one survive the loss of their children – taken at the hands by a cruel slave owner? How does a woman preserve her integrity – again at the hands of a cruel slave owner? The topics are dark and disturbing (as they should be), but the main characters are so genuine and likeable that while the subject matter is gruesome, it is still fed to the reader in the form of entertainment. In between the dark images and storyline, are bits and pieces of the love story shared between Dana and her husband and her desperate desire to remain in her own modern time with her husband.
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