Author: Octavia E. Butler
ISBN: 0807083054/Beacon Press
Protagonist: Dana, a 26-year-old black woman
Setting: Altadena, California in 1976 and a plantation in Maryland in 1815
First Lines: I lost an arm on my last trip home. My left arm.
Dana is a 26-year-old black woman. She and her new husband have just moved from a small apartment in Los Angeles to their new home in Altadena. With no warning other than dizziness and nausea, Dana finds herself in the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned across the years to save him. After the first summons, Dana is drawn back again and again to the plantation to protect Rufus. Each time the stay grows longer and more dangerous, until it is very uncertain whether or not Dana's life will end...long before it has even begun.
I've said before that I love well-written time travel novels, and Kindred certainly exceeded my expectations as far as the time travel and writing. The method of time travel is never explained, and that suits me just fine. I don't need exposition on dilithium crystals, the space-time continuum and quantum physics. As long as the author makes me believe that the person actually is in another time, I'm good to go. Butler's writing is marvelous. The plot flows like white water rapids, both time periods are utterly believable, and the characters are so vivid that I had strong emotional reactions to them.
If you like books that keep you well within your comfort zone, please stay away from Kindred. Butler's novel grabs you by the throat and shakes you over and over again. This is so much more than a mere "time travel" book! Kindred has so much to say about love, about hate, about slavery, about racial dilemmas--both then and now. It is supremely thought-provoking, superbly written, and will doubtless take a place on my Top Ten Reads for 2008. It goes without saying that Kindred will not be the last of Butler's books that I read.
My second reading was even better than the first. One of Octavia Butler's best works of some really stellar stuff. Probably the best if not only way a modern person can close to understand the horror and contradictions of slavery. Impossible to put down.
I couldn't put this book down. A cross between science fiction and black history, it crosses from 1976 to the early 1800's and back again and perfectly parallels a black woman's life between the periods. Highly recommended reading!
I've never read a book about time travel. I have read about slavery before. This book combined the two and it was fantastic! There are also discussion questions at the end to make you ponder even more.
I love science fiction, but I'm not a huge fan of most time travel stories despite their importance within the genre. Too many time travel stories are seemingly based on the premise that you'll be impressed at the gimmickry and while that may have worked for me when I was twelve it doesn't work for me today. The time travel stories which work are about a more universal theme which just happens to include traveling through time. H.G. Wells' The Time Machine works because of its lens on the potential distortionary effects of class stratification while Orson Scott Card's Pastwatch seems to emphasize the importance and power of individuals making moral choices to changes things for the better for whole societies. Kindred works because it gets you to examine history from the perspective of the slaves and the circumscribed sphere of often bad choices they had. At an emotional level you feel the frustration and powerlessness of a modern black woman as she is transported into slavery. I heartily recommend it both as a story and as a window into a time of tyranny in America.
Science-fiction meets slavery in the antibellum south? I know its crazy but this is one of the most creative and gripping books I have ever read. I started reading while my son was taking his afternoon nap on a Saturday and finished it Sunday night. Yeah, its that good. Dana is a young, black woman living in the 1970's with her white husband, Kevin. While they are unpacking boxes in their new home, she's suddenly transported to a plantation in South Carolina where she must carefully interact with the masters and slaves in order to survive. You gotta read this book and you'll understand exactly why its been celebrated for over 25 years.
Octavia Butler is one of the greatest sci-fi/fantasy writers of our time and this book is one of her best. Like all great sci-fi, this book can be read on two levels and both are equally engaging. The first is the surface, narrative level. The trials and tribulations of Dana, an African American woman living in the mid-70s, who suddenly finds herself being transported back to the 1800s to a slave plantation are riveting from the first page. I found myself staying up into the wee hours of the morning reading this because I just had to know what happened to Dana and the other characters.
The second level is that of metaphor; it's a response to the more militant attitudes in the African American community at the time this book was written. It wasn't uncommon to hear people condemning those who didn't try to escape slavery as weak and "house slaves" or slaves who had sexual relations (voluntarily, or as close as one could get to it as a slave) as traitors. Butler uses Dana's journeys into the past as a way to explore how the oppressive social systems of the time work on people's minds. Even someone like Dana, who grew up in the comparatively more free and liberated 60s and 70s can feel changes in herself, in spite of her best efforts to fight against it. The result is a much more compassionate view of slaves as complicated people with sometimes conflicting feelings and impulses trying to get by the best they can within a horribly oppressive social structure.
Such a message could seem heavy handed coming from a lesser writer, but Butler never lets the message overwhelm the characters and the story. I highly recommend this book!
powerful and raw, this is a sci-fi book that even non-sci-fi lovers, like myself, can enjoy. my only complaint is that i didn't read it sooner!
Edana, or Dana as she is nicknamed, is a modern black woman married to a white man, both struggling writers. on her 26th birthday, Dana is inexplicably transported into the South of the early 1800's where slavery is still practiced in full force. she is "called" there by a red-headed boy named Rufus, who is drowning and she saves his life. ironically, he turns out to be one of her slave-owning ancestors and it becomes clear that it is her duty to protect him. this begins the series of time travels, as Dana is called back each time Rufus is in danger, 6 times over the years to save his nearly pathetic life. each time causes Dana to be stuck in the world that does not welcome her, until her own life is threatened and she is spirited back to her own time. in this way, she learns what it means to be a slave, a woman, a wife. as such, expect a tale with lots of life and lots of near-death, lots of fear and raw emotion.
"I hadn't known quite as well then what there was to fear. I had never seen a captured runaway like Alice. I had never felt the whip across my own back. I had never felt a man's fists."
with startling honesty and depth, Butler grabs you from the beginning and never really lets go, even after the book is over. there is so much strength and conflict that is nearly overwhelming, between characters, between and within the races, and between the times. on top of that, Kindred is well constructed AND well written, bringing together so many powerful themes into a profound tale of fiction: abuse, racial and sexual tensions, literacy, physical and emotional courage, which all serve to show us what it might have been like to be a slave.
"My back began to ache dully, and I felt dully ashamed. Slavery was a long slow process of dulling."
the relationship between Dana and Rufus is one that caused the most conflict for me as a reader. as much as i didn't want to, i found myself in the same position as Dana, having compassion for Rufus. his upbringing and surroundings pushed and pulled him into the expected behaviors of a white slave-holder - sometimes abusive, cruel and unpredictable. and yet, it was so obvious that he wanted to be good. in his own way, he loved his slaves, and this becomes pivotal in the outcome of the book. i kept thinking of the quote "Forgive them, for they know not what they do."
the other struggle that i felt with overwhelming surprise was how easy it had become for Dana to fit in as a slave. she finds herself conflicted with how seemingly "real" the time there feels and she comes to even call it home. during one of her reminisces comparing her two lives, she explains that "(Slavery's) time was a sharper, stronger reality. The work was harder, the smells and tastes were stronger, the danger was greater, the pain was worse." and i felt that, too. it made my life in this century feel less significant, much like i imagine she felt when she returned to the 1970's apartment that she shared with her husband.
Kindred is not a feel good book, nor an easy read, but altogether, this was a stunning work, one that begs to be read and that i would recommend for everyone.
A fascinating story of time-travel in which a black woman living in California in the 1970's is transported onto a plantation in the early 1800's. This is a really compelling read, blending African-American history, science-fiction and historical fiction into one book. A very worthy read for anyone and a great choice for a book club. Highly recommended.
Ever since Octavia Butler died in 2006, I have been meaning to read her work but have never gotten around to it till now. I'm sorry I waited so long - this is a marvelous masterpiece, one that does not suffer the years for being written in the 70's but is still fresh and relevant today. I picked up the book this morning to start it, and could not put it down until I had finished it this afternoon. Dana Franklin, a young black woman, is suddenly an inexplicably transported from California in 1976 to the antebellum South around 1812, where she saves a young boy from drowning. Just as quickly she finds herself back in her own time. Thus begins a series of time travel episodes that take her back to the life of her ancestor, with whom she appears to have a strange connection that pulls her back whenever his life is in danger, and only sends her home when hers is. It's a fascinating, engrossing and painful tale to read, as Dana is forced to learn to live as a slave in order to survive. I'm surprised it's not a must-read for American high school students, and it's earned a spot on my all-time favorites list.
I really enjoyed this book. I love time travel and this was the first one that I have read that was based on slavery. It really makes you think. And the author did a lot of research for this book. It shows! I would love for there to be a sequel, but since it was written in the 70s, I don't think that will happen.
As a true romance junkie, I do not frequently venture outside the genre. In the case of Kindred, I am so glad that I decided to stray from my comfort zone. This book is "beautifully tragic." I was sucked in and read it all in one marathon sitting. As I am a slow reader, it was a terribly long session. But, I could not put it down. There just never seemed a good point to stop reading. Every page left me wanting to know what came next.
I loved that the characters were neither good nor bad. They were a believeable mix of loveable, despicable, sympathetic, and pitiful. Foremost, I identified with Dana. There were so many instances when I felt that she made the right decision (the one I would have made) only to suffer the consequences.
Overall, it was a good blend of time travel and historical fiction.
I'll admit, I much prefer Butler's straight sci-fi novels-I find them compelling and captivating in a way I don't with her other topics. That said, this was a powerful and intense book that should be required reading for anyone reading about slavery in the US in the 19th century. Butler's spare writing lends itself to graphic descriptions in places, but it's actually kind of refreshing to see that in this kind of novel. Recommended even with a four-star rating
There were many things I liked a lot about this book. Having a modern black woman personally experience slavery and speaking in the first person of that experience was extremely powerful for me. Yet the time travel conceit grew old for me as the book went on, and I found my attention wandering a little. I just wanted something new and unexpected to happen. But don't get me wrong....I still found it a powerful and compelling narrative, tho not a perfect one.
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 across the years to save him. after this first summons, Dana is drawn back, again and again, to teh plantation to protect Rufus and ensure that he will grow to manhood and father the daughter who will become Dana's ancestor.
Kindred, by Octavia E. Butler is a most interesting story. It fits into the Science Fiction genre, but it's most important as a depiction of slave life in the southern United States. It is well written and most exciting.
This is the first book I have read by the author. I could not put it down. In the past, I have not enjoyed books with time travel. However, this was such a gripping story and characters. I will definitely look for more by this author.
The story centers around a young black woman (Dana) and her husband (Kevin, who is white) in 1976 living in California. One day she experiences a dizzy spell and blacks out. When she comes too she is in the country watching a woman screaming for help to save her son. Dana helps resuscitate the boy and finds herself in another place and time. Then she returns to present day. This happens throughout the young mans' life when he finds himself in mortal danger. The concept of time travel is not something I generally read about. However, Dana is transported back to an area outside of Easton, MD during the early 1800's and the young man is the heir to a slave plantation. Vividly describes the unbearable pain and torture of slavery and shows the bonds that existed between the owners and their slaves. Engaging and interesting twists and turns in the story!
There were many things I liked a lot about this book and others I didn't enjoy as much.
The fact that a modern black woman travels back in time and experiences slavery and narrates her life among her pre ancestors in the first person enthralled me. I would have loved to read about Dana's husband experiences too, after all, he was trapped back in that time for 5 years alone.
However, at the same time her travel conceit grew a bit stale for me as the book went on, and I found my attention wandering a lot, trying to follow some other character. I just wanted something new and unexpected to happen which it did at the end.
I enjoyed the story and best of all, I loved Alice; she' is the reason I chose the 4 stars and not 3.
This book was a fantastic story. A young black woman is swept back in time from modern 1976 to the days of her slave ancestors. Her interactions with the people of that day will determine how her family begins and survives, and if she herself will eventually be born. The writing is very easy to read and well done. Loved it!