The antebellum south pre-Civil War South has been a fascinating subject for writers and film maker for years. Last year’s 12 Years A Slave, the story of a free black man forced into slavery, easily filled in seats at movie theaters and racked up awards.
In Octavia Butler’s novel, Kindred, Dana is a newlywed living 1976 Los Angeles. She somehow travels back to 1815, where she saves Rufus, the young son of a white slave owner, from drowning. First she travels back and forth in time by herself and then with her husband. Dana is black and her husband is white. Due to the spoken and unspoken rules of the era, Dana and Kevin must find a way to survive until they can return to the present. Dana finds herself drawn to the slave quarters, to a woman who might be one of her slave ancestors. As her visits to the 19th century become more frequent and longer, Dana worries that her days may end not in her own time, but in the 19th century.
I found Dana to be an interesting character. She is an intelligent and capable woman who quickly realizes that she must hide that part of her to survive in 1815. Kindred is a ground breaking novel, not just because of the well blended aspects of history and science fiction, but also that it’s writer is a black woman publishing in the late 1970’s. It is an excellent book until the end, which left me scratching my head. I was waiting for the novel to end, but it felt like the ending was lopped off.
Do I recommend this novel? Maybe.