Kindred takes place in 1976 and in 1815.  Dana a young African-American woman periodically experiences dizziness and black outs which enable her to go back in time to 1815.  The experience of going back to the slave days is shocking and terrible for her in the beginning.  She is extremely distressed since she has no idea how this happens.  Divided between the fear of having to live life as a slave and helping Rufus, who she saves from drowning on her first trip, she is driven down a perilous journey of truth about her family and herself that will change her and her husband Kevin forever.

Kindred reads as a historical fiction novel with a twist of science-fictional time traveling.  I never thought these two could work so well in a novel but they do.  The novel is written in a simple style, and reads very quickly.  However, Butler delves deeply into themes like race, violence, family, and home in a manner that is quite intense .  In addition, she explores the theme of power and how it can become a  corrupt tool of  influence and cruel manipulation.

The first quarter of the book we are trying to understand like Dana, how and why this is happening.  Unfortunately, that is never really addressed, so quickly what will happen to Dana and how she relates to all the different people on the plantation becomes the primary plot of the novel.  Things get messier when Kevin, her white husband grabs on to her and winds up back in slavery times with her.  The awkwardness of the situation is frightening.  There Butler makes Dana and Kevin face this difficulty head on like a slap in the face.  The mounting tension and horrific violence from whippings, rapes, hangings, and dog attacks, Butler is forcing the reader to see the reality of the time period along with Dana.  Many times I kept putting myself in Dana’s shoes and wondering how I’d react.

Dana was a trooper in the beginning trying to think of everything and to prepare for things, but what she didn’t realise is that she fell slowly but surely into the role of a sort of modern-day Mamie.  She is bound to the past not only physically but mentally since she seems unable to break the link between herself and Rufus.  We see Rufus grow from and innocent boy into an unsparing, conniving man.  A man who is meant to run a plantation although he does it through being cruel and by making people fear him.  Dana finally grows at the end with much difficulty and mostly because she feels she understands what she sees happening in 1815 more than she really does.  The trap is there.  The psychological manipulation that Rufus uses on her his criminal.

If you haven’t read this story you should definitely check it out.  Octavia E. Butler really knew how to turn a story and this one has many twists and turns that will make every reader think.  Butler began writing at 10 and writing science-fiction at 12.  Her love for writing came out of her boredom for she was an only child.  It was the science-fiction movie Devil Girl from Mars which made her attempt to write science-fiction.  She was quoted as saying she knew she could write a better story and that she did.  Happily for us, Butler overcame dyslexia and went on to write many novels and short stories, such as Fledgling, Lilith’s Brood, and Parable Seed.  She won the Hugo Award twice, once in 1984 for best short story with Speech Sounds and in 1985 for best novelette with Bloodchild.  She also won the Nebula award twice for best novel, once for best short story, and best novelette.  In 2010, she was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.  Does it sound like I’m pushing Butler?  Yes, I am.  Well the next Butler book I’ll be picking up will be Fledgling.  I’m dying to see how she wrote about vampires and I’m not that keen on vampire stories either.  To be continued…..  Check out the link below to hear more about Octavia E. Butler.  Brilliant!

20 thoughts on “Kindred”

  1. I read her novel Parable of the Sower, it’s a dystopian novel written in a journal style. I like how original, emotional, and dark her work can be, the writing is very plain so I kind of had a hard time going through the novel because I couldn’t bring an image into my head. However, I enjoyed it and I recommend it. I want to read Fledgling too, vampires are pretty cool, except the sparkly, romantic ones.

    1. Aw I take it you didn’t like Twilight so much. Yes I4ve heard Parable of the Sower is very good too. Will try to pick it up the next time I can. For the moment I only own Kindred and Fledgling.Will definitely do a review on Fledgling and on Parable of the Sower when I read it. Oh does Parable of the Sower have a sci-fi feel to it?

      1. Parable of the Sower has more of a dystopian feel to it, so there are people who take drugs that make them act like crazy, pyromaniac, zombie people and the main character is hypersensitive. Everybody is poor, regardless of race. I guess it’s somewhat like science-fiction, it’s very brutal and violent. It kind of reminds me of the I am Legend movie for some odd reason.The book I read is my mom’s and it is a collection/Bind up book that contains Parable of the Sower, Parable of the Talents (the sequel) and Kindred.

  2. Kindred is may be my favorite book. I’ve read it three times. I’ve fantasized about seeing it on the big screen. I’ve read everything except Lilith’s Brood, which I never finished. After Morrison, I am kinda a stan for Butler (though Fledgling was difficult to read and I won’t spoil it. She tells a good story. It’s just disturbing). During my last visit home, I saw it on the book shelf at my mom’s and brought it back to Ireland to read once more.

    While out with a friend she saw the book and asked. I stupidly told her that I had already read it. She convinced me that it would be a good idea to loan it, I would ask her thoughts while she was reading it and she’d say, “It’s good” but never offering more. Some time after she had completed the book, she confessed that she didn’t like it and was afraid to tell me because it’s my favorite story. It aroused so much anger and frustration and didn’t leave her with the good feelings of the book she had just completed, The Help. I wasn’t upset about that, however, she still hasn’t returned the book to me. :-

    1. Well I don’t know how your friend can even begin to compare The Help and Fledgling. That’s odd. Moreover that she liked The Help is just typical. Everybody seems to like that watered down kook-aid version of history in fiction. I can’t bear it. Thank God for writers like Butler, Morrison,etc. I thought the same as you about having Kindred made into a film. IT would be fantastic on the big screen. Maybe the success of 12 Years a Slave will make it happen one day. Hope you get your book back. 🙂

  3. I picked up this book and couldn’t finish it. The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man by James Weldon Johnson took me through perception/scenarios I had not been introduced to. I hope that makes sense.

      1. The slavery story is also repeated for me or maybe I’ve done my share of reading of it. I’d like to know other aspects, the before and the after. Also, is it me or the style of how she speaks in the book is not fluent enough. If I recall correctly, certain terms threw me off and thus took away from a smooth read.

  4. I’ve loved the Octavia Butler I’ve read, but I have yet to get to this one. You do make it sound excellent! Also: I never knew Butler dealt with dyslexia…a very interesting biographical tidbit.

    1. Yes but it definitely didn’t hinder her from writing an excellent story like Kindred. However I’ve heard critics complaining about the wooden or flat dialogue that doesn’t flow. I didn’t have a problem with it but some people will. All in all it’s a fantastic story with poignant scenes and relationships and quite a critic on society too.