Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Cane River” as Want to Read:
Cane River
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Cane River

by
4.06  ·  Rating details ·  45,600 ratings  ·  2,056 reviews
A New York Times bestseller and Oprah's Book Club Pick-the unique and deeply moving saga of four generations of African-American women whose journey from slavery to freedom begins on a Creole plantation in Louisiana.

Beginning with her great-great-great-great grandmother, a slave owned by a Creole family, Lalita Tademy chronicles four generations of strong, determined black
...more
Paperback, 522 pages
Published April 1st 2002 by Grand Central Publishing (first published January 1st 2001)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Cane River, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Gena There is a rape of a young teenager. Obviously a brutal act, but not described in depth. It is a terrible fact of slavery that young adolescents were …moreThere is a rape of a young teenager. Obviously a brutal act, but not described in depth. It is a terrible fact of slavery that young adolescents were raped by their owners. The incident is not gratuitous or salacious, but is important in the history of the family and so, the storyline. (less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.06  · 
Rating details
 ·  45,600 ratings  ·  2,056 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Start your review of Cane River
Jaline
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: xx2018-completed
One of the strongest parts of this book that stood out for me was the depth and breadth of the characters, particularly the women. This novel is a fictional depiction of the author’s own family tree for six generations exclusively through the female line with one exception: her grandfather. The personalities and portrayals of all the people throughout this novel are so real that it felt like I personally knew each one of them. I could picture each one like a finely detailed pen and ink portrait ...more
Julie H.
Sep 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Sammy
May 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Monica **can't read fast enough**
If you are looking for historical fiction that focuses on the lives and struggles of African American women, I highly recommend picking up Cane River. Lalita Tademy has turned her family story into a fictionalized account of three generations of women who have each faced physical and emotional trauma with strength, dedication to family, and a burning need to move their families forward. When faced with no choice but to physically submit themselves to the men who hold the power of life and death ...more
Anne
Jun 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Marvin
Aug 11, 2009 rated it it was ok
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 these mixed- ...more
Megan Baxter
Sep 11, 2013 rated it liked it
Cane River is an odd mix of fiction and non-fiction, and I'm not sure it entirely works. It feels like trying to find the balance between the two constrains the narrative in ways that either one by itself would not. As non-fiction, it is limited by the availability of sources, and it truly seems like there is much that has to be speculative. As fiction, it is equally limited by the sources - the author is hemmed in by what she does know, and that structure seems binding.

Note: The rest of this re
...more
Cindy
Aug 11, 2012 rated it it was ok
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).
Leslie
Sep 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Sally
Oct 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Judy
Mar 24, 2013 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
Kinga
Mar 04, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pub-2001
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
Keyona
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: i-own-these
So..I wrote an in depth review of this but Goodreads didn't save it so in short I loved this book! The fact that it was loosely based on Lalita's own personal family history adds an extra layer of love to it. Even though there's many characters, we mostly focus on 4 generations of women and they have such depth to them. They each are very unique in what they want out of life and for their own children. Some make decisions that are hard but understandable based on their circumstances. We follow t ...more
Corby
Dec 07, 2007 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
Annie
Jul 16, 2016 rated it liked it
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.
Leah Beecher
Apr 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Terry
Jan 10, 2014 rated it liked it
"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
Kathy
Jan 13, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Nenette
Mar 03, 2014 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
...more
gaudeo
Mar 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
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.
Tasha
Jul 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
The author weaves together a wonderful story based on her research of her family history. I love the fact that along with the story are wonderful photos of those she writes about. These women have endured so much sadness, hardships and heartaches yet remain so strong until the day they died. This is a touching and powerful read. I definitely rec this one. I'm still on the fence about the rating...4 or 5 stars...for now a 4 but I may change to 5 later.
Cynthia Marie
Jul 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book demonstrated the importance of knowing our history and touched me in ways most books do not because of the narrative of the strength and resilience of black women. It resonated with me deeply because I come from a family of strong black women. This book covered 137 years of the author's incredible family history. Black women have always been strong and these women persevered, no matter what!
Rachel
Jan 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book followed one African-American family for four generations - from the 1840s to the 1930s. It was fascinating to read about how much life both changed and stayed the same for black people over that time period. The story was based on the author's ancestors and was really engaging.
Elise
Dec 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful family saga to sink your teeth into over the holiday break, Cane River takes place in Creole French Louisiana and tells the story of 4 generations of women who enduredthe indignities of slavery as well as racial discrimination for many years after "freedom." You will fall in love with these characters, their strengths, weaknesses, heartbreaks, and triumphs. I will forever be haunted by the powerful matriarch, Philomene, her glimpsings, and her ability to take care of business for her ...more
Donna
Mar 29, 2018 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the historical fiction aspect of this. It covers a particular time in history that I always love to get lost in.

This started out strong. The balance of both the historical and the fiction seemed to work right out of the gate. They were married well together, but as the story shifts to different generations, sometimes one or the other gets lost. It sometimes felt like an info dump, which is not a good thing. And sometimes it felt like a character parade. So somewhere after the first gen
...more
Carolyn Quenneville
Historical fiction

Well written novel of one family’s history of challenges and success. Each character comes alive to weave the determination to better themselves.
Aubrey
2.5/5
[A]s much as she would do to protect the new life inside her, their making had nothing to do with how careful she was allowed to be.
Judging by the fallout, this work spent too much time on my shelves, but then again, I don't think I would've put up with the level of the quality and structural integrity of the writing even back when I first acquired the book, or even when I first digitally added it to my shelves. I've read critiques of the handling of swinging back and forth between fict
...more
SassyMama
Sep 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful and Soulful

Publishers description: "Five generations and a hundred years in the life of a matriarchal black Louisiana family are encapsulated in this ambitious debut novel that is based in part upon the lives, as preserved in both historical record and oral tradition, of the author's ancestors. In 1834, nine-year-old Suzette, the "cocoa-colored" house servant of a Creole planter family, has aspirations to read, to live always in a "big house" and maybe even to marry into the relatively
...more
Marilyn
Jul 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Cane River covers 137 years of a rich family history by the author. In the beginning of researching her family, this was not destined to be a novel, however I am so glad author Lalita Tademy saw it differently and brought us a spell binding work of fiction to be enjoyed by those of us who love this genre in the days when working hard for a dollar by women takes on a whole different meaning. Elizabeth, Suzette, Philomene and Emily (great grandmother of the author) are the best.
Cleo
Feb 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Cane River is an interesting, if easy book. Lalita Tademy traced her ancestry through four generations of remarkable woman, each struggling for her freedom in different ways. This is their story. First we have Elisabeth and then her daughter Suzette, who is the first to know the joys and the heartbreaks of freedom, her daughter Philomene, Philomene's daughter Emily. All of these women are different, and they all go through different trials and tribulations, but they all have one thing in common: ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Reading Until Inf...: June 2018 Book Selection Cane River 2 13 Jun 12, 2018 04:28PM  
Stockton Lady's L...: Cane River 1 1 Apr 02, 2018 02:09PM  
Which of these great women did you like best? 7 76 Nov 14, 2015 06:48PM  
Cape Saint Claire...: October Meeting 2 11 Oct 08, 2013 08:23AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Gap Creek
  • Jewel
  • Vinegar Hill
  • Mother of Pearl
  • Songs in Ordinary Time
  • The Book of Ruth
  • Icy Sparks
  • Drowning Ruth
  • Open House
  • We Were the Mulvaneys
  • A Virtuous Woman
  • Black and Blue
  • While I Was Gone
  • A Map of the World
  • The Rapture of Canaan
  • Here on Earth
  • The Deep End of the Ocean (Cappadora Family, #1)
  • Back Roads
See similar books…
416 followers
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

Related Articles

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our lis...
5 likes · 3 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“You can't tell how heavy somebody else's load is just from looking. The Lord doesn't give us more than we can carry” 39 likes
“Reaching too deep into something not meant for you is full of pain. Figure out what you can have and work on that” 23 likes
More quotes…