Ambassador of Books ~ Book Club Madam ~ Blogger Gal

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Cane River

I just finished reading Cane River by Lalita Tademy and I LOVED it! How could I have not read this book before now?!

Let me back up a bit ...

Last year sometime I read The Book Club Cookbook. In it are - among other things - interviews with a variety of book clubs, many who have rules for what they read. I read about several clubs who only read African American authors and EVERY ONE of those clubs had Cane River on their reading list. Intriguing, no? Honestly, not really. And that's because I often avoid what it seems that EVERYONE else is reading (I'm not alone in this - check out this post for proof!).

But somewhere along the way, I decided to give in and read Cane River. I figured that now would be a good time, since this book fits in with the Historical Fiction Challenge. By the time I finished I wanted to smack myself for being so stubborn for all this time. This is a REALLY good book!

Cane River is the story of the Lalita Tademy's family beginning in the early 1800s, told in the form of a novel, written after the author left her corporate life and devoted herself to researching her family's history. Genealogical research is tough and time-consuming but when your ancestors were slaves it is even tougher to find reliable records. Her book includes many of the documents and photos that she unearthed; these documents serve to remind the reader of the that this story really is true.

What I liked so much about this book was the way the author presented each of the characters as having different strengths, and how what one character viewed as a strength was often seen by others as a weakness. But as time progressed, each generation built upon the strengths and achievements of the generation before ... all leading up to (almost) present day.

This book truly does read like a novel so at times I forgot that I was reading about real people. But then I'd come across a copy of a letter written by the person I was reading about, or a receipt for tax payment from another person and I would suddenly remember "these people REALLY lived!" It was amazing.

As a side note, I think that the reason I fell in love with this book is that it is exactly the type of book I want to write. I'm not a creative writer (give me something to research and I'll write you a scholarly paper, but don't ask me to be creative) but I am our family's unofficial historian. I collect the stories from generations past and present whenever possible, and I have always wanted to turn them into some kind of book, even if it would just be read by my family. But this book showed me a way to create something out of what I've got! If only I could be creative enough to fill in the details, I'm sure I'd have something really amazing to write about.

For more about this book ...

If you'd like to learn more about the Cane River region of Louisiana, check out the Cane River National Park. The photos there give an idea of what life was like in the book.

After I finished reading I checked out the discussion questions on ReadingGroupGuides. They gave me lots to think about and helped me "digest" this book.

As always, I'd love to link up to your review of this book - just let me know where to find it!

5 comments:

Ti said...

This is amongst the handful of books that I have picked up, and put down, numerous times without even reading the first page. I think I am incredibly fickle! I just get so side tracked by my to-read stack. Your review has encouraged me to try it again.. and it was nice of you to include the additional resources as well.

littleangelkisses said...

This looks interesting. I haven't seen this but will look for it after I finish my current book.

C said...

Thanks for the comment on my blog! I think it's awesome that you make reading such a priority. I love historical fiction, too... which usually means a romance novel about princesses and pirates. :) Shameless, I know.

Nymeth said...

This sounds like a book I'd really really enjoy. Thank you for the review.

MoxieMamaKC said...

Ooohh! I love historical Louisiana! I'll definitely check this out...Thanks for the suggestion.

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