Patricia's Reviews > Kindred

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
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May 28, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: scifi-and-fantasy
Read from May 10 to 11, 2011

I think I've mentioned my love for Octavia Butler to nearly everyone I know, but, although it's been on my bookshelf for years, I had been putting off reading Kindred because I wasn't sure what to make of the fact that the book seemed like a strange departure from the rest of her work. Butler's other books are firmly lodged in the science fiction/fantasy genre--peopled with vampires, psychics, and aliens, and usually set in the present or future. Kindred, on the other hand, is essentially a slave narrative, as experienced by an African-American woman and her white husband who inexplicably travel back in time to the plantation of her ancestors, a white male slaveowner and the slave woman that he takes as his mistress against her will. I'll be honest: this premise initially sounded to me like something from the type of historical fiction I would have read in middle school, where kids from the present were inserted into the past to make it seem more "relevant."

I should have learned by now not to doubt Butler. Kindred is gripping, weighty, and emotionally affecting without feeling manipulative, and the book's characters, both from the present and past, are complex and layered. Butler makes the choice to offer no explanation of why or how the time travel is happening, which allows the device to function as necessary for the plot without taking over the story. My only objection is that the ending "twist" (the aftermath of which is actually revealed in the book's first paragraph) felt a bit forced--the one point in the story where it seemed as though something gruesome happened just for the sake of shocking the reader. But on the whole, I would definitely recommend Kindred, and in fact, because of its generic fuzziness, this one might be a good gateway to Butler for people who are reluctant to read her more explicitly science-fiction novels.
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