Nikki 's Reviews > Kindred

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
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's review
Jan 18, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: fantasy

Shelved as fantasy, rather than SF, because while it deals with time travel, that aspect isn't explained at all. It simply isn't the focus: it's set up enough that the main character can go back in time to that of her ancestor, and forward again to her own time, but there's no explanation of why it starts or how it works. In a way, I do wish there'd been more of that, but ultimately it isn't the important part.

Octavia Butler writes well -- not just interesting writing, but writing that is just easy to read. There's no barrier to enjoying the story: the writing isn't ornate, but it's not too simple, either. Personally, it walked a perfect line, and the voice of Dana -- the narrator -- worked well for me.

The stories alternates between the 1970s -- Dana's time -- and the 1800s, when she had a white, slave-owning ancestor. The co-dependency she has with him, and the way things fall apart at the end, are well-drawn, and the contradictions of liking him somewhat while knowing the kind of man he is... The way she's trapped, forced to play the role of the slave, is a little heart-breaking. Someone else's review talks about wishing Dana were a stronger character, but when you think about the time period she was put into... a different kind of strength was needed then, which to some extent she develops, and some of which is beyond her...

I liked the inclusion of her (white) husband, Kevin. He seems to be a great guy -- not untouched by the world he ends up spending five years being a part of, but fighting it all the time -- and one likes to hope that the two of them manage to be happy after the end of the book. It's a big strain on their relationship, after all.

I'm not sure how articulate I'm really being! In any case, I found it fascinating and definitely recommend it, with the caveats that you have to be okay with the lack of explanation, and with slave narratives. And if you're one of the white people who has read this book and complained about the racism towards white people shown in it, think about it this way: a) however little you like it, it's historically accurate, and b) it's not about you.

Both times I've read a book by Octavia Butler, I want to immediately go out and find the rest. So I expect I'll read some more soon.
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