Book Review ~ Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
A story about time travel to the Antebellum South
There are some things in history that are so horrific, it’s difficult to even visualize them in our heads. The only way we would truly be able to experience them for what they were would be to time travel. Books are the closest things we have to a time machine, and in Kindred by Octavia Butler, we take that time machine to a Maryland plantation in the early 1800s.
Kindred is a story of Dana, a black woman from the 1970s, who gets called back in time while moving in with her husband. We soon discover that she is called back every time her distant ancestor is in grave danger, seemingly indicating her as his protector. Her ancestor, Rufus, happens to be the son of a plantation slave owner in the antebellum south.
When Dana’s life is threatened, which you can imagine is quite often for a black woman on a plantation in the early 1800s, she is delivered back to her own time in the 1970s. The book outlines a series of time hops from her time to Rufus’s time as she learns more and more about her lineage.
Her husband Kevin travels with her once and then gets left behind. Their relationship is pushed through centuries of social change as an interracial couple, providing an interesting case study in the dynamics of race in a relationship spanning 2 different centuries.
My first observation was the matter-of-fact tone of the narrator. The concept of time travel was introduced with little fanfare, which threw me off at first. As I read on, it became more and more like seeing through Dana’s eyes.
Dana, and in the same token, Octavia Butler, are masters of showing, not telling. The story is not dense, it’s easy to follow and sink into. At a certain point, picking up where I left off felt like I was pressing play on a movie, I could picture the surroundings so vividly.
This is the kind of book that allows me to picture the characters in my mind, grow attached to them…