Kindred by Octavia Butler

Published: 1979

Genre: technically science fiction, but felt more like historical fiction

Length: 264 pages

Setting: mostly near Baltimore, MD around the 1850s

Interest: Butler is one of the Grand Dames of science fiction and also important as a writer of color. I’ve sadly never read any of her works and decided to rectify that omission. It helped that she fulfilled a letter in my author challenge.

Summary: Dana is a black woman living with her white husband in 1976. They’ve just moved to a new house when Dana gets dizzy and wakes up on riverbank with a young boy drowning nearby. She saves the boy, but is threatened by the father and wakes up back in her own time. Dana discovers the boy, Rufus, is her ancestor, and she’s called back to his side every time his life is threatened. Dana saves him each time to ensure her bloodline. She only goes back to her own time when she fears she’s in mortal danger, so she spends quite a bit of time in Rufus’ household as a quasi-slave. In one jump, her husband comes with her, but isn’t touching her when she jumps back to the present so he’s stuck in the past for a time. Dana tries to influence Rufus so he’s not so cruel to his slaves, but is only partially successful.

Final thoughts: I enjoyed the book, although I have a hard time considering it to be science fiction. Yes, there was time travel, but it wasn’t ever explained. That’s fine within the story – you just accept that it happens and never really wonder how, but there’s no “science” to it. It’s more of a historical fiction book. I thought the same of Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis, and as long as I approach it as a historical fiction book, I enjoy it much more than as a science fiction book. In this case, there was a black person from modern-day having to fit into antebellum Southern society. It’s amazing how easily Dana falls into patterns of the day and slavery. It’s definitely told from a unique perspective. When Dana’s white husband gets caught in the same time period but has a totally different experience because of his skin color, it really made you think. The transition back to modern life and the feeling that something was lacking was also quite thought-provoking. All in all, a good book, but I want to read one of her more solidly science fiction books as well.

Title comes from: Dana was always summoned back to save Rufus’ life and he was her ancestor. They are kin and kindred spirits.

Reading challenges fulfilled: 92/100 in the Read-a-Latte Challenge, and a B in my A-Z Reading Challenge author challenge (17/26)

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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