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Cane River

4.03  ·  Rating Details  ·  36,857 Ratings  ·  1,696 Reviews
The "New York Times" bestseller and Oprah's Book Club Pick--the unique and deeply moving epic of four generations of African-American women based on one family's ancestral past.
Hardcover, 0 pages
Published January 1st 2001 by Grand Central Publishing
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Julie H.
Sep 05, 2008 Julie H. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I should divulge that I formerly lived along Cane River (the in-town part) and was given a free copy by our local National Park unit at a public symposium. I started the book that night at bedtime, thinking I'd read for an hour or so, per usual. Well I was up until well after 4:00 a.m. finishing this thing! When I showed up slightly bleary-eyed for class the next day, one of our observant grad students (thanks, Melissa!) asked whether I'd been up all night finishing "the Book of Crack" as she ca ...more
Jun 12, 2007 Sammy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: a-the-best
What a gorgeous novel. The key thing is, is that this novel was based on Lalita Tademy's own family history. She calls it fiction, though, because she had to elaborate and add rich detail to the simple stories she had been told of her grandmothers before her.

What shocked me most about this novel was that it was Tademy's first. Her writing seems to reflect years and years of writing before her, it flows so well and the language is so rich. You can't criticize her characters, because they are real
Jun 28, 2011 Anne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was a little cautious entering this book. First off, it's an Oprah book choice and those are generally a bit on the depressing side. Secondly, what I knew of the plot of the book was that it was about a family of women slaves during the Civil War era....which could be depresing, graphic, etc. I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Granted, some of the situations that happen to the family of women in the book are sad, and make me frustrated that people were ever treated that way, the overall ...more
Mar 12, 2009 Sally rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone -- the strongly portrayed characters will draw you in
Cane River is a wonderful novel, which I highly recommend. I learned a lot about the slave/plantation/small farmer experience of Creole Louisiana. Especially interesting are the details about the gens de couleur libre and the long line of interracial unions (both forced and chosen) among Tademy's ancestors. An important thread that runs from beginning to end in Cane River is the impact of skin color biases within the black community, and Tademy's family specifically.

San Francisco Bay Area native
Sep 16, 2010 Leslie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I come from two long lines of strong women. They survived the hard life of settling in the mountains of Southwest Virginia, the pain and loss of childbirth, disease, economic hardship, the Depression, the helplessness of dealing with alcoholism and many other tragedies and difficulties of life. But none of them, to my knowledge, had to suffer the indignities of slavery. Lalita Tademy's book, Cane River, tells in fictional form the stories of four generations of the women in her family.

The story,
Dec 10, 2007 Corby rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't ever remember reading Roots, by Alex Haley. I do remember liking the miniseries when it came out, more for the experience of understanding how lives so different from my own unfolded in times very different from my own. Cane River is like Roots. Maybe not quite as non-fictional, but nonetheless a compelling story of the lives across three generations of African-american women in the 1800's and early 1900's. It's thick, very thick. It touches upon the issues of "bleaching the line", the r ...more
Aug 11, 2009 Marvin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A work of historical fiction focusing on the lives of 4 generations of women in Creole Louisiana, from the slave woman matriarch brought to Cane River from Virginia in 1820 to the early 20th century, with a brief epilogue in 1936. All but the first generation had children by white fathers--one by force, one by a coldly calculated relationship intended to benefit the children, & one by a long-term loving relationship hampered by ostracism & legal constraints. The special challenge of thes ...more
Leah Beecher
Apr 13, 2011 Leah Beecher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this one a while ago and did not jot it down in my Book Lover's Diary Journal, so I will relate what I remember. This was an Oprah Book. It has such an interesting backround in that the author Lalita Tademy, wrote this after quitting her job to research her own family heritage. Real documents and photos of the characters, her ancestors, fill the book. The author successfully researched back to her what I think was her great-great-great-great grandmother. A slave.
The narrative is broken in
Mar 22, 2010 Kinga rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am always wary when it comes to books written by regular people who decided to discover their family history. They more often than not are of interest only to the authors and their relatives. And they are usually badly written.
Also this was an "Oprah" book, so I was expecting lots of gooey 'women power' yadda-yadda.

I was pleasantly surprised. Wheares Ms Tademy might not win Nobel Prize for literature anytime soon I don't feel I have wasted my time. She doesn't over-romantacise her heroines - s
Jul 06, 2016 gaudeo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a captivating novel, based on the author's own genealogy. Set in antebellum Louisiana, it traces the lives of African Americans, particularly women, from slavery to freedom. Tademy's ancestors lived at a fascinating, if often grim, time in the nation's history, and the novel depicts the many obstacles they faced even after the Civil War, particularly for couples of mixed race. Highly recommended.
Aug 11, 2012 Cindy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Really not good. Which I knew by around page 5. But I read all 500 pages to the end, mostly because my next set of books from Amazon hadn't arrived yet. Interesting story and concept, but the writing is just stinky. It's definitely got the vibe of "I quit my job at Sun to write a fiction book." The dialogue is really bad and the characters are just poorly developed (even though they're real people).
Jan 13, 2009 Kathy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cane River covers 137 years of the author's family history, written as fiction, but rooted in research, historical fact and family stories. The matriarch of the line was the Negress, Elisabeth, sold away from a plantation in Virginia to the backwaters of Louisiana. It was heartbreaking at times to read the stories of her descendants' families as they were torn apart by slave auctions, abandoned by their fathers who were white, and faced the sentence of illiteracy. At the same time, it was inspi ...more
Mar 15, 2014 Nenette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book after I read the author's story in Chicken Soup. I admire her, having taken that leap of faith, deciding to leave her top corporate job, just so she can concentrate on her mission to find out about her family, her roots. She herself admitted that she didn't really know what compelled her to resign; and she didn't have any idea then where that decision would take her. Well, it took her to a two-year long discovery of he lineage, and eventually to a bestseller.

The author, Lal
Sep 11, 2011 Kendra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book on the bargain table and picked it up to read when I needed something in between other books. I am very thankful that I read this book…I truly enjoyed it. The author takes the real life people from her family’s genealogy and puts them within a heart breaking and loving story set in the backcountry of Louisiana in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The story deals extensively with racial relations between whites and blacks because throughout most of the book, the characters are ...more
Jul 16, 2016 Annie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars. A friend really loved this book, so maybe my expectations were too high. I just didn't love it as much as I thought I would.
Ann Schaffer
Aug 10, 2014 Ann Schaffer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cane River follows four generations of women, starting in slavery, and ending in freedom. The story is based on the author's own family history. The names and some activity are based on research, but Lalita Tademy filled in personalities, inward thoughts, and things that could never be found through research. The women of Cane River, Louisiana are survivors and protectors. They are smart, and they have spirit, and they are proud. They endure hardships and equip their daughters to achieve a bette ...more
Suzanne Platt
Nov 20, 2013 Suzanne Platt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful book, I loved the history, the story the setting. I've been to this area and live fairly close, so learning about the history of the people through the eyes of slave women really brought it to life for me. The tragedies that the slaves went through are unthinkable but to come out on the other side still intact is amazing. Although this book is historical fiction the author's piecing together her family history here is nothing short of a miracle.
Jan 10, 2014 Terry rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Cane River" is a family saga of 4+ generations of African American women from slavery to the 1930s. The writing is straightforward, even simple; not great. I found it hard to engage at first, but the narrative eventually becomes engrossing. This is actually a fictionalized family history -- real people, real dates, real events but re-imagined with dialog and inner thoughts of the characters. That gives it a resonance that is deeper than the writing. As I said, it's about the women. The only men ...more
Oct 18, 2012 True rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Inspring and gives you a sense of what the culture is like in Louisiana for that time period if your into History and want to know why people think and do the things they do. Harsh but reality.
Apr 03, 2009 Jamie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book will make you appreciate much of which we take for granted everyday. The narrative is told so well- through numerous viewpoints.
Trisha Drape
Dec 13, 2009 Trisha Drape rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I recommend this for all the women I know in the Downtown Book Club.
Jul 21, 2015 Dee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a remarkable book. Not a story with a traditional conflict/resolution, but more of a character study, only the character is the family. It tells the story of four women, from slavery through the Jim Crow era. The author, a descendent of the real women she wrote about, did some incredible research about these women and the community they lived in. But it's not a dry retelling of family history; rather, she's turned it into a beautiful narrative. She built a story to fit the facts that mad ...more
Nov 19, 2014 Judy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How did I miss this book? Lalita Tademy's family story is so well written, and the product of such excellent research that it could be considered history. Tademy not only gives us her family saga based upon stories, historical documents, but she gives us a picture of slavery in Louisiana. Of course, I knew that many French people settled that area, but I didn't realize that French men didn't have the aversion to Negros/ slaves that was characteristic of most white slave owners. Some French farme ...more
Mar 16, 2014 Alarie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This Oprah book club selection is called a novel, but it blurs the distinction between fiction and nonfiction, novel and memoir. Tademy researched her family roots back into slavery, then followed the ancestors she learned about through five generations, from 1834 to 1936. Naturally, there are the usual stories of brutality, injustice, and despair associated with slavery and the racial supremacy that continued its reign of terror afterwards. Her family grew lighter and lighter skinned through ge ...more
Mar 11, 2012 Marleen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
It is remarkable (or a bit strange, maybe) that being a Western European I’ve always been more fascinated by American history than European history. Well I wouldn’t use the term 'more fascinated', rather 'more moved by', or enthralled. It’s rather like the American history speaks more to my imagination, or because I find it more compelling and adventurous on some level. Or maybe it is simply that the American history has found its way much more often to the wide screen, or on the pages of plenty ...more
Jun 28, 2010 Anne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have 2 personal connections to this book. One, I went to college in Natchitoches, LA, the oldest settlement in the LA Purchase, where the action in this book took place, and two, the author is an aunt of former high school students of mine in Lake Charles, LA. I was attracted to the book by it's name because I recognized it from my college days. I remembered many of the family names of the white people discussed in the book -- they are the names of prominent people who still live in the area.

Nov 15, 2011 Kathi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a novel based on historical facts. It is a story spanning 137 years & 6 generations of strong women who lived along the Cane River in Louisiana. It's a story of resilience & strength, which takes place both pre- & post-Civil War. Most of the 6 generations of strong women grew up as slaves with the 2nd (Suzette) & 3rd (Philomene) generations being raped by slave owners & in the case of Suzette, a slave owner who wasn't her own. By the 4th generation, Emily, she chooses ...more
Mar 18, 2013 Amy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful book and a very exciting concept. The author researched her family history all the way back to the early 1800s, which was no small task since most of the ancestors that she chronicles in this story were slaves. I did some genealogy for years and it is a fun and rewarding scavenger hunt of a hobby, but when it comes to slavery, the records are harder to find. She had an aunt who wrote a synopsis of a family history in 1975, just a couple of pages chronicling what she was told or could r ...more
Jun 07, 2012 Porsche rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My father had me read this book when I was in high school to stir me away from dating white boys. But I loved it! It's stuck with me over the years as an enduring classic of Mother/Daughter relationships, and the resourceful nature of my ancestors.
It tells the story of three generation of women, mothers to daughters, and how they all three lived very very different lives and separate struggles according to their areas of history: Luzette - who through no fault of her own became estranged from h
I am another reader, leery of “Oprah Books”. I was pleasantly surprised with this one. This book was a great history lesson for me! The project Lalita took on is something a lot of people have been doing lately especially with the help of the internet. Researching genelogy has always intrigued me. Lalita took this one step further and filled in the gaps of her research with a fictional story that was so good, it was hard to tell the difference between fact and fiction. Lalita began with Elisabet ...more
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LALITA TADEMY left the corporate world to immerse herself in tracing her family's history and writing her first historical novel, CANE RIVER. Her debut was selected by Oprah Winfrey as her summer book group pick in 2001.

Lalita Tademy's second historical novel, RED RIVER is set during Reconstruction-era Louisiana a time period and subject matter often summarily skimmed in our history books. The sto
More about Lalita Tademy...

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