“He was like me — a kindred spirit crazy enough to keep on trying.” – Octavia E. Butler (Kindred)
This post may contain spoilers.
Butler’s “Kindred” novel is the story of a modern black woman who gets called to the past several times to help rescue her white, slave-holding ancestor. While time-travel novels aren’t unfamiliar to those who enjoy reading fantasy and sci-fi books, there aren’t too many that deal with the very real history of our country.
Dana, for some reason, gets called back in time whenever Rufus, her white ancestor, nearly kills himself. Despite her confusion as to what had happened, Dana does her best to help out Rufus even when, as he grows older, it becomes clear that he is a man of his time. No matter how Dana attempts to influence him, he continues to own and trade slaves.
That was what was most admirable about the book, in my opinion. The ending was bittersweet with Dana realizing that she cannot change Rufus’s character to resemble her modern-day times, but with that it proved how true the characters were to themselves as they naturally developed. Dana herself got into trouble quite a few times due to her backtalk to the whites of the past and she learned to adapt when she could and make plans to protect herself when she could not. Her husband Kevin — a white man — accidentally traveled with and stayed behind in the past during once such trip, and despite the years it had seemed to him, he stayed true to his core personality as well.
Plenty of the other characters were amazing as well, from the other slaves — ones who stood up for themselves and others, and others that accepted their place — to the whites who, back then, were just acting as society had taught them.
Although the story and characters were wonderful reads, I did find myself taking longer than necessary to read the book. For some reason, I felt as if the narrative was slow. Details of both the past and present were needed to help understand the stark differences in time, yet it still seemed to crawl along in parts. All in all, though, I definitely would recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a good historical fiction.
“Kindred” gets a 4 out of 5 stars.