I have a particular fondness for this book because I grew up across the Straits of Juan de Fuca from Port Angeles, the real life counterpart to "West...moreI have a particular fondness for this book because I grew up across the Straits of Juan de Fuca from Port Angeles, the real life counterpart to "West of Here"'s setting. Set in the fictionalized Northwest town of Port Bonita, Washington, this book sweeps back and forth between the Pioneer Days of the Olympic Peninsula, and the reality of the Northwest in 2006. With the natural resources depleted, the Northwest towns have been fading for decades (Aberdeen, for example, a town whose decline gave us Nirvana). Yet in this book, Port Bonita isn't the depressed small town that it could have been. Instead, it's a comfortable place (to some residents, too comfortable), where destiny happens, in ways big and small.
I liked this book more than I expected to. I read it, as I do all fiction set in the Northwest, out of nostalgia. But as I got into the book, I began to appreciate the wry humor in the chapter titles, and the precision of emotions conveyed for each character. I appreciated the short chapters, the jumps between characters and time frames. I appreciated the incorporation of the mystical, just enough to lend the book an extra dimension, but not so much that the mystical became a plot device in and of itself. And as the book swept on, and everything came together, I found myself more and more absorbed in it, until I realized, it was almost done. As the interweaving of the characters lives and histories became clear, and the connections between the timeframes came into focus, I was totally absorbed in these people, living their lives as a community across few miles of rain-soaked Northwest forest...and a hundred years.
I love books about history, and I really enjoyed this one. Yes, it was a little overly...magical. But it was about a historian unraveling the story of...moreI love books about history, and I really enjoyed this one. Yes, it was a little overly...magical. But it was about a historian unraveling the story of her ancestor, a healing woman from colonial New England. It was about the historical research techniques needed to trace a book through hundreds of years, along with the lives that went with it. And it was a chilling re-examination of the Salem witch trials - and the good women who died in them.(less)
Totally over the top - but also brilliantly imaginative. This book recreates the life of the infamous Etta, a mystery woman traveling with the Sundanc...moreTotally over the top - but also brilliantly imaginative. This book recreates the life of the infamous Etta, a mystery woman traveling with the Sundance Kid and the Hole in the Wall Gang after tragedy strikes her own life.(less)
What if blacks from Africa had modernized first...and enslaved whites from Europe instead?
What if the layout of the world was different, and lent itse...moreWhat if blacks from Africa had modernized first...and enslaved whites from Europe instead?
What if the layout of the world was different, and lent itself better to African colonization of the New World?
What if, in Londolo, there was one slave, one English woman from the Cabbage Coast, who had the (illegal) reading and writing skills to tell her story?
What if a reader of Caucasian descent had to read about European culture, only generalized and debased to provide a justification for white slavery?
During slavery's heyday, argument after argument ensued. It was argued that Africans enslaved each other - but how is that different from selfdom? It was argued that Africans were scientifically different, sub-human, on the basis of the shape of their heads...but the same arguments can be made against Europeans. The justifications for slavery ring hollow in history books now, but in Blonde Roots, they ring home. Europeans are depicted as uncivilized savages, who should be grateful to be taken to the civilized world, rather than be left to wear their ridiculous clothes, eat their terrible food, decapitate each other for offenses against their King, and treat each other with contempt.
Blonde Roots is also a horrifying reminder of the cruelties that went on during slavery: the hellish conditions of transport, the torturous punishments, the loss of loved ones and families. It is filled with loss, torment, death, and outright horror - all of which is based on true events. Yet, at the end of it, the narrator, Doris, is so charismatic, and her story so compelling, that the book itself was absorbing and a joy to read.
It's hard to be shaken and transfixed by a novel all at once. "Blonde Roots" is not only an imagining that strikes us in our hearts and minds, but a brilliantly written and crafted narrative. Evaristo has written a true classic.(less)