I love sci-fi, so when I first heard about Octavia Butler, I jumped on Amazon and bought the first book I saw.
In Kindred, Dana, a modern young African American writer who recently married an older white man, gets mysteriously transported back in time to a pre-Civil War plantation owned by the family of her oldest known relative, Rufus. Dana is called back to save Rufus’s life over and over again, presumably preserving her own life in the process. What happens to her in the past stays with her in a very real way.
This novel is incredible. I couldn’t put it down. It was written in 1979, but it could have been written last year. Elements of Butler’s own life and frustrations with race issues during her life shine through in parts.
This novel deals with love, familial connection, loss, time travel, slavery, and the complex emotions that arise when these things interconnect. To quote Dana:
Strangely, they seemed to like him, hold him in contempt, and fear him all at the same time. This confused me because I felt just about the same mixture of emotions for him myself. I had thought my feelings were complicated because he and I had such a strange relationship. But then, slavery of any kind fostered strange relationships. Only the overseer drew simple, unconflicting emotions of hatred and fear when he appeared briefly. But then, it was part of the overseer’s job to be hated and feared while the master kept his hands clean.
This is a great book. It makes the deep personal toll slavery takes on its victims very real. I’m seeking out more of Octavia Butler’s books in the near future.