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Cane River

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  29,960 ratings  ·  1,520 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.
Paperback, 543 pages
Published February 1st 2005 by Grand Central Publishing (first published January 1st 2001)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Julie H.
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
Sammy
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
...more
Sally
Mar 12, 2009 Sally rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
...more
Anne
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
Leslie
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,
...more
Corby
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
Kinga
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
...more
Marvin
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
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
...more
Kathy
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
Kendra
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
Ann Schaffer
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
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.
Terry
"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
True
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.
Nenette
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
...more
Jamie
This book will make you appreciate much of which we take for granted everyday. The narrative is told so well- through numerous viewpoints.
Judy
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
Anne
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.

T
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Kathi
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
Amy
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
Porsche
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
...more
Ali

Lalita Tademy's riveting family saga Cane River chronicles four generations of women born into slavery along the Louisiana river. It is a tale about the blurring of racial boundaries: great-grandmother Elisabeth notices an unmistakable "bleaching of the line" as first her daughter Suzette, then her granddaughter Philomene and finally her great-granddaughter Emily choose (or are forcibly persuaded) to bear the illegitimate offspring of the area's white French planters. In many cases these childre
...more
Gina
I loved loved loved this book. The characters were well developed. I felt like I knew them and just wanted to give them a hug if given the opportunity. This book evoked so many feelings; I felt pride, sadness, strength, outrage, triumph, inspiration, and defeat.

Cane River is an unforgettable historical tale of how 3 generations of African-American women survived life before and after the plantation life. Each of these three women, Suzette, Philomene, and Emily have a unique story to tell, as th
...more
Elizabeth Moeller
This book gave me not just food for thought but a banquet for thought. The first big thing my brain had to chew over was the family tree of the author tucked at the beginning of the book. Although this book is historical fiction, it is based on a significant amount of research that the author did on her own family. The thing about her family tree that really got me was to see how close the author, who resigned as a Vice-President of Sun Microsystems to take on this project, was to a generation b ...more
Ashley W
This was such a powerful book. I absolutely fell in love with every single one of the characters. Cane River chronicles the family history of the author, starting in 1834 with her great-great-great grandmother, Suzette, followed by Suzette's daughter, Philomene, and finally, ending with Philomene's daughter, Emily, in 1936. All three women began their lives as slaves and ended being free, but not without heartache and tears and the notion of being attracted by white men whom they couldn't say no ...more
Ginger
Nov 11, 2012 Ginger rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Ginger by: Dara
A wonderfully written book following 3 generations of women. The author gives the reader an insider's look into slavery, with a powerful story which includes some actual documentation as well as family lore. The book has pictures & actual documents & letters, etc. which I really enjoyed seeing.

Historical Fiction is not my usual genre and I tend to stay away from it. I am so glad I read it! I fell in love with all 3 women (4, if you count Elisabeth), for different reasons. Elisabeth, Suze
...more
Heather
Jan 16, 2011 Heather rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: most people
Recommended to Heather by: Sharon Walton
Shelves: adult
Borrowed from my mom b/c she and Kristen loved it. It was a solid "like." I'm not surprised that this was the author's first novel after quitting the business world, but it was solidly good and interesting. Once again, I've discovered that I don't really love epics because there never seems to be story arc - just descriptions of people and their lives. This book had enough meat to keep it pretty interesting most of the time. Sometimes random parts of the book sounded like a very-end-of-a-book to ...more
Lalo Lafleur
Mar 05, 2013 Lalo Lafleur rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone over 18
This is a good story. My husband's people are from this area. The Creole people were plantation owners and did very well. Although they were people of color, they were also slave owners. The law at that time said that any off-spring from a free person of color and a slave would be considered a slave in spite of the fact one of their parents was free.

I think this is a great look at how truly awful legalized slavery was. The abomination of slavery was hurtful to individuals, families and of cours
...more
Julianne
This is family history at its finest! Lalita Tademy resigned her career as Vice President at Sun Microsystems to do some genealogical research. She took her findings, used her imagination to fill in some gaps, and created a chronicle of one hundred years of life in Louisiana for the slaves, Creoles, Frenchmen and other whites who lived together and created a fragile and uncertain society. Men were NOT created equal in Louisiana, and the white men fought to promote that idea and preserve the life ...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
More about Lalita Tademy...
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