Kindred by Octavia Butler

I have had this book on my “to-read” list for quite some time. I hadn’t gotten around to reading it because slavery isn’t exactly a feel good topic. However, I am determined to get some of these books off my list, so I gave it a shot. Kindred is the story of a young African-American woman in 1976, Dana, who is transported back in time to early 19th century America- to a slave plantation. Needless to say, things don’t go very well. Dana does not just go back to the antebellum South, she goes back to the very plantation where her ancestor, Hagar, was born into slavery. I am not a real fan of time travel stories, but this particular cast of characters, and the way the story unfolds, drew me in. What was interesting about this story was that Dana is not what I would consider to be your typical protagonist, at least in this situation. She is not from a wealthy family, she is not spoiled. She is an aspiring writer, who takes on odd jobs through an employment agency, to make ends meet. She is used a blue collar woman who is used to struggle, and this background serves as a foundation for the work (both physical and mental) she has to do. There are the typical issues with a modern woman being dropped into a world that does not have those ideals, but they are handled with a grace that I appreciate. Ms. Butler does not hit us over the head with these issues, but they come to light very organically. Dana is a smart woman, but she is not omniscient. She is a quick study, and she is able to use her wits and what she has read about this time period to keep herself alive. We also spend some time with Dana and her husband, Kevin. Dana’s time travel has a profound affect on Kevin and their marriage. At one point, (mild spoiler) Kevin goes back to the plantation with her. Not only is Dana changed, but Kevin is changed as well. His experiences, as a white man during this era, are quite different form Dana’s, and influences many of the choices they both have to make throughout this ordeal. What was very interesting was that there was no discussion of how changing events in the past would then change the future- the butterfly effect. This is a common trope of the genre, but I did not find that here. It seemed as though the way time travel works here, is more along the lines of “whatever happened, happened”- there was nothing Dana could have done in the past to change the future. The universe will always course correct. In a way, it frees up Dana to take necessary risks to keep herself alive, and to get back home. I have always enjoyed Octavia Butler’s works, and I would have to say that, surprisingly (at least to me anyway!) this has become one of my favorites of hers. If you are looking for a story with a light touch of fantasy, then I would highly recommend Kindred.

Lilypad Rating: LilyPadLilyPadLilyPadLilyPad out of 5

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