5.0 out of 5 stars What an amazing read!
What an amazing book. I couldn't put it down, it's so imaginative and truly eye opening. I needed to read this story to understand a time in our history I would not have understood properlly without it. I loved this book. Any man or woman would enjoy this.
Published 12 months ago by Nikolina
3.0 out of 5 stars Science Fiction for the science fiction avoider
I read this novel in a "Women of Color" graduate course and was impressed by the attention to detail and historical sentiment. At times, I actually saw myself in the two dimensions, going through their same actions.
Dana, a 'modern' 20th century black woman meets her 18th century ancestor, a white southerner named Rufus as a result of unexplained flashbacks she has. At...
Published on Nov. 15 2002 by Robin Orlowski
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5.0 out of 5 stars What an amazing read!,
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5.0 out of 5 stars Kindred,
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It doesn't quite manage to take its readers back in time.,
Inexplicably, the novel's protagonist (a 20th century black woman, named Dana) is transported to ante bellum Maryland, where on a slave plantation, she meets (and repeatedly saves) her great-great-grandfather. The twist: this particular grandfather was slave-master to her great-great grandmother. As the novel progresses, Dana realizes her goal is to help ensure their fertile coupling... and her own future. But climbing this branch of the family tree won't be easy, given that she must experience all the horrors of slavery in order to make that happen. Hence the double entendre which is the basis of the title (Kindred = "kin dread").
Along the way, the reader has the opportunity to watch as Rufus Weylin grows up from careless little boy to crass slave-holding plantation owner. Back and forth Dana travels between her familiar modern-day life as a young writer, and the dreary hell of a southern plantation. When Rufus' life is in danger, she comes to him. When she feels her own is in danger, she returns... but always with reminders of this horrific past scarred into her body.
Butler tries to present her reader with something like the grand tour of the old south... a Colonial Williamsburg of the slave plantation, but with none of the predictable horrors expunged. Rapes, whippings, disease, and the sale of human slaves (often done to intentionally divide families) bluntly fills up the bulk of the book. But the real pathos of the book is the effect all this has on four major characters: Dana, Rufus, Dana's husband Kevin (who is white), and Alice.
Alice is a free woman who is taken into bondage by the Weylins after she tries to help her lover (a slave) escape. Dana's quest is to ensure that Alice and Rufus produce a healthy offspring... thus ensuring her own lineage and future life. That's not going to be easy, given the fact that Rufus is a repulsive lout whom Alice understandably despises.
Reading "Kindred", I couldn't help but feeling that the novel was somewhat contrived. First, there are the repeated attempts to remind the reader of famous black Americans of the period (Frederick Douglas, Sojourner Truth, Nat Turner), making the book at least partly a vehicle for a PBS-like history lesson. Secondly, its attempt to present the customs of the era is not really entirely precise. It focuses too much on those parts of the past that its liberal-minded audience would find most uncomfortable: mostly, the attitudes of slave-holding whites' towards this proud, literate protagonist, but also the complex relationship between field hands and house slaves. Where it tries to recreate the mundane details of 19th century life---say, medicine, language, cooking, farm life, religion or education----the book comes across as tepid at best, and misleading at worst.
Then, of course, there are the very unusual hopeful notes. That Dana eventually convinces Rufus to allow her to school the slave children seems an utterly modern contrivance. Skeptical readers will wonder how Dana, a pants-wearning, back-talking feminist, who is not only the wife of a white man, but also has the peculiar habit of vanishing into thin air, is not simply killed outright by the semi-literate, superstitious, and violent plantation owners. Instead, she becomes their trusted servant, privy to their most innermost secrets. Go figure.
Still, it's a good little page-turner... the kind of breezy read that keeps the impatient interested in what will happen next. The book would be an excellent vehicle for a high school class studying African American history or literature. But for real depth and historical imagination, I would recommend Toni Morrison's "Beloved" or Shirley Ann William's "Dessa Rose," or even William Styron's "The Confessions of Nat Turner," all of which are perpetually interesting and challenging in a way that "Kindred" simply isn't.
3 and 1/2 stars (rounded up)
2.0 out of 5 stars Slavery and time travel; a confusing combination!,
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I will not give up on the author with this single reading but, rather, will purchase another one of her books with the hopes that this was not one of her finest and that 'the best is yet to come'.
5.0 out of 5 stars BRILLIANT!!!!,
This review is from: Kindred (Paperback)I am absolutely floored by this book. This is one of the best fictional books I have ever read. If you want a slave narrative that will truly draw you into the story and allow you to feel everything that the characters are feeling, this is the book for you. All I can say is AWESOME!!!!
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow!,
This review is from: Kindred (Paperback)I'm not normally a fan of science fiction, but this book literally left me breathless. It's fascinating and paints a painfully realistic picture of slave/slaveholder life in the early 1800s. Hats off to Ms. Butler for an outstanding novel.
5.0 out of 5 stars Kindred: A Great and Amazing Link To the Past,
This review is from: Kindred (Paperback)This was a great book! I couldn't put it down. It was as if everytime the main character was transported back in time, I was with her.
This book had a profound effect on me. For so long I had thought only of how slavery influenced African Americans; but thanks to the main character's relationship with her white husband I was able to really see how slavery influenced everyone.
This is definintely a must read!!!
5.0 out of 5 stars Modern audiences will find newfound meaning in the story,
5.0 out of 5 stars African American woman is sci fi heroine,
This review is from: Kindred (Paperback)This is a crowd pleaser. Listed as sci-fi or fantasy, gives a false impression. Through the eyes of Dana, a black 20th century time traveler, we visit the ante bellum south.
Through her visits we meet her ancestor, a white slave owner. She first encounters him as a boy floating face down in a pond. She saves him from drowning, and is returned to the 20th century when the boy's father (another ancestor) points a gun at her. It appears that her fear returns her to her home. Her husband was with her and witnessed her disappearance. She returned just minutes later soaking wet.
As the book progresses, Dana returns again and again to the southern plantation each time to save her ancestor from some life threatening peril. Each time she stays longer. Each time she returns when she fears for her life.
The author uses the time travel device effectively to connect the 20th century attitudes of her readers with her speculations on slavery. We view the compromises made by all to accommodate slavery... the participation of all, slave owner, slave, and free blacks. The terror instilled in slaves by separating families and selling children. At one point we are told about a tactic used by Dana's ancestor. He sold all but one of children of a particular slave. This child is mute. At first Dana thinks that the child could not be sold. But, she later considers this a tactic of terror. This last child is all that this slave has left. How better to keep the slaves in line then to make them fear for their children. It is through devices such as this that she starts to understand how easy it is to give into that fear, how easy it is to enslave a human being.
Ultimately, Dana commits the act of a 20th century African American woman. It destroys her ancestor, and tears apart the slave families that she had grown to care about.
This book appeals to me on so many levels. Octavia Butler is a wonderful story teller, but she is telling a story with a moral. She appeals to the emotions. I cared for Dana, her husband, and the plantation slaves that she encountered. She appeals to reason. I accepted her view of how slaves would respond to various circumstances, and I accepted her actions as reasonable under the circumstances. She appeals to me as a woman. Her heroine is one (not commonly found in sci-fi). And finally, she appeals to me as a historian. I accepted her facts on the life of slaves, and the relationship between slave and master.
I highly recommend this book.
5.0 out of 5 stars Prepare Yourself For A Mental Voyage,
This review is from: Kindred (Paperback)As alluring and thought-provoking as Toni Morrison's Beloved, Kindred takes you on a mental trip of self-identity. For anyone who has contemplated their own lives, their being, and what connects them to the people they love or call family, Kindred is the book for you. As the sand of an hour-glass pouring from one end into the next, this story ties its protagonist of one time into the past. Read this book . . . take a look into your own conscience . . . then read it again.
A.E.H. Veenman, an author and reviewer
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Kindred by Butler (Paperback - May 22 2002)
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