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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Kindred

Kindred
by Octavia Butler
audiobook: 11 hours



*** About the Book ***

It is 1976 and Dana and Kevin are married writers who have enjoyed some moderate success, enabling them to purchase their first home. While they are still moving in, Dana gets dizzy and feels like she is passing out. Suddenly she finds herself outside near a river where a young boy is drowning. She pulls him from the water, saves his life, then find herself looking down a shotgun; the boy's father is ready to shoot her, thinking she is trying to kill his son. Then POOF!, she's back in her new living room. Kevin has no idea why his wife disappeared, he's simply happy she's back. But it happens again, and then again and again, over the next few days, and each time Dana is gone longer. She soon realizes that she is not simply moving through space, she is moving through time as well. Somehow that young boy she saved, Rufus, calls her back through time whenever he is in a life-threatening situation and Dana arrives just in time to save his life. The problem? Rufus is a young plantation owner living in the early 1800s and Dana is an African American woman. AND Rufus is Dana's ancestor.


*** Why I Read It ***

I first heard of Octavia Butler through this post at Tor.com. I immediately added her Pattern series to my TBR list. Then I read this Tor.com post about her time travel/slavery novel, KINDRED, and that book went onto my TBR list as well. When it was time to look for a new audio book at the library I came across this one and checked it out immediately.

Plus, since there is time travel (albeit unexplained time travel), this counts toward the Mind Voyages Challenge.


*** My Thoughts ***

Oh Octavia Butler! WHY have I not read you before?! You are wonderful, simply wonderful!

(Do you get the idea that I liked this book, maybe just a little?)

I don't usually read books set in the American South during any time period and I can't recall the last pre-Civil War book I read (other than GONE WITH THE WIND, and we all know how very realistic that book is ... *sarcasm*) so this was definitely a break from my usual reading habits. I listened to this while driving and let me tell you, I did NOT want to get out of the car at all.

Let me explain what is so wonderful about this book ...

As a white female living in a relatively non-racist community there are thing that I will simply never understand about racism, things that I will never personally experience. Many times authors write about this topic in a way that doesn't help me to understand racism any better than I already do. Butler's writing was different. The fact that her main character is coming into her slave-life from a safe, comfortable, and generally non-racist home/work life allowed Butler to show the readers the reality of slavery through modern eyes. Dana was shocked and horrified over the same things that I would be shocked and horrified over; our reactions mirrored each other in a way that helped me understand the horrors of slavery as I never have before.

Butler didn't take the easy way out as I thought she might. I expected Butler to protect her main character, give her a way to keep from getting hurt, give her someone to watch over her, give her something. This didn't happen, and every time it didn't happen I was forced to acknowledge the realities of life as a slave - sometimes there simply are no choices or ways to get away.

One other thing that made the book hit home for me is that is takes place in Maryland. The main setting is a town called Easton which is about an hour from my house. I have friends who live there. Other parts of the story take place in Baltimore, which is just 20 minutes away. Stories like this (minus the time travel, of course) took place practically in my back yard.

This is an amazing book, one that I've been recommending to people since I got through the first few chapters. I would have even let Kiddo listen to it with me (it would be an excellent way to get him to understand slavery) except for the repeated use of the "n" word; it makes sense in the context of the book, but I don't want that word in Kiddo's vocabulary at all just yet.


*** About the Audiobook ***

The audiobook was narrated by Kim Stuanton and she did an excellent job. She had different accents and voices for the various characters in the book which made it easy to keep track of who was talking. She also conveyed the emotions of the characters very clearly, something not all narrators can do.


*** Your Thoughts ***

This book needs to be more widely read! The only other review I could find was at Linus's Blanket and she loved it as well.

Have you read this book? If so, what did you think of it? If not, have I convinced you to give it a try?

26 comments:

Lezlie said...

I listened to this recently also, and totally agree with you. It was quite the experience! Excellent book!

Lezlie

Heather J. said...

Lezlie - I was so excited to see your comment on here - I miss you girl!!! How things are going well with you. Oh, and I'm glad you enjoyed this book too! :)

Lenore said...

I really enjoyed my first Butler recently (Parable of the Sower) and since this one has time travel (love) it seems like a no-brainer for me.

bermudaonion said...

You've convinced me that I need to get hold of this in audio. Fantastic review!

Amy said...

We read this in my book club a few years ago and really enjoyed it. We were also fortunate enough to get to see Octavia Butler in person at Loyola College not long after we read it. We were total fangirls and got her to sign our books, but I'm so glad we took the opportunity to go see her in person when we had the chance.

Aarti said...

I have this book on my wishlist- I think someone else reviewed it recently and it sounds WONDERFUL. I think I am going to have to keep Butler on my watch-and-buy list, if I ever find her in a used bookstore!

Kej Kreations said...

I listened to this one several years ago, and loved it! I have to hear it again now.

amy said...

I took a Slave Narratives American lit class this term and my professor reccomended this book! I'm excited to hear that it is good! I am definitly going to check it out.

April (BooksandWine) said...

Wow, Kindred sounds utterly amazing and right up my alley. I have one Octavia Butler book, Fledgling but still have yet to read it.

It's hard to confront the harsh realities of slavery, and it sounds like Butler has an interesting perspective. I'm adding this to my TBR!

Dreamybee said...

This sounds really interesting-it's going on my TBR list.

A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

Ooh, I need to read this one soon. Excellent review!

Heather J. said...

Lenore - The book you mentioned is part of her "Pattern" series (I think) and is on my TBR list already.

bermudaonion - I hope you enjoy it!

Amy - Oooh you are so lucky to have had that opportunity!

Aarti - "I think I am going to have to keep Butler on my watch-and-buy list, if I ever find her in a used bookstore!" GREAT idea.

Kej Kreations - I can definitely see why people love this book - it is fantastic.

amy - Please do check it out, it is definitely worth your time.

April, Dreamybee, and A Bookshelf Monstrosity - I'm glad to have convinced you all to give it a shot!

StephanieD said...

Oh, I am so reading this book now!

Lezlie said...

Heather ~ Things are great! Thanks for asking! I've been spending almost all my free time learning about vegetarian cooking and eating some really awesome meals. :-) I'm still around the blogosphere, just not as actively. It's great to just be able to enjoy everyone's blogs without worrying about what I'm writing on my own!

Lezlie

Heather J. said...

StephanieD - Yay!

Lezlie - That's so good to hear. Please comment whenever you can, even if it is just to let me know how you're doing - I want to hear from you!

Cathy said...

I read and reviewed it a couple of years ago. It was one of my top ten books that year.

softdrink said...

Well, you convinced me. The only Butler book I've read was Fledgling, which I enjoyed despite it's almost clinical style.

Heather J. said...

Cathy - I can understand why!

softdrink - I hope you enjoy it. I know we don't always agree on books, but this one was really, REALLY good IMO ...

Anna said...

You've sold me on this one. Time travel and slavery and set in Maryland. I just added it to my to-read list and the list of possible books to suggest for book club. Thanks for the review.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

Heather J. said...

Anna - Ooh, this WOULD be a great book club book!

J.T. Oldfield said...

I've been meaning to read this for quite some time. I'm not sure where I first heard of it though.

Heather J. said...

JT - It is well worth your time.

Serena said...

I have a hard time with books that have characters traveling through time and space, but this one sounds good.

Heather J. said...

Serena - There is very little focus on the time travel aspect; the author just states that it happens and the reader is expected to take it for what it is. For that reason I think this book will work well for you.

Erika Robuck said...

This book looks great!

Heather J. said...

Erika - YOU would definitely appreciate this book.

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