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Book Review of Kindred

perryfran avatar reviewed on + 1139 more book reviews

I found this copy of Kindred on a book trading site after reading several good reviews of it online. This is a fantasy/sci-fi time travel novel first published in 1979. The narrator is a young black woman, Dana, who is transported from 1976 back to the antebellum South of the early 1800s. She is apparently summoned there by her ancestor, Rufus, the son of a plantation owner who is in danger of drowning. Dana is able to save Rufus and is flung back to 1976 when she is threatened with a gun by Rufus's father. But that's not the end of her time travels. Every time Rufus is in peril, Dana is sent to his rescue and when Dana is in peril she is able to return to her present. During one of her time trips, her husband Kevin, who is white, is taken with her and winds up stranded in the past for five years. While Dana is in the past, she becomes somewhat of a fixture on the plantation and lives alongside the slaves (some of which are her ancestors) and the whites who own them. Butler describes the brutalities of life on the plantation including the selling of family members by the plantation owners, beatings and whippings, harsh conditions in the fields, and maimings of runaways. Every time Dana returns, she is taken back to 1976, but it is sometimes years that pass in the past in between her time trips. The people in the past age while Dana remains ageless.

Butler does a great job of showing the harshness and brutality of slavery from the point of view of the people of the time as well as from the perspective of Dana and her husband. The means of the time travel is never really explained and I have read that Butler considered this more of a fantasy novel. One reviewer points out that this was published two years after the Roots TV miniseries which could have been an influence on the story. I haven't read any of Butler's other science fiction but I will be on the lookout for them.

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