Kindred, by Octavia E. Butler

Kindred Octavia ButlerKindred
by Octavia E. Butler
Pub Date: June 1, 1979

This is a book that has been in my TBR pile for YEARS. To the point of embarrassment, even. I’ve been intrigued by this book since shelving it as a bookseller and my co-workers pointing out how much they loved it. This was the first science fiction novel written by a black woman, and that deserves some respect right there. I’m generally only mildly interested in sci-fi, so that’s probably what put me off reading this for so long. But while it gets classified as sci-fi because of the time traveling element in it, it’s much more a historical fiction slave narrative than anything else. And that right there is what makes this book stand out.

Dana and Kevin move into a new house in California. They’ve been married for four years, and are both writers. One day Dana, a black woman, gets dizzy and disappears from her home, and appears in early 19th century Maryland, and saves a little white boy from drowning. The little boy’s father thinks she’s going to hurt the boy, but before either can act, Dana disappears again and reappears back home with her husband. Thus, over a short period of time in 1976 California, but over the course of many years in early 19th century Maryland, Dana returns at different times when that little white boy, whose name is Rufus, finds himself in mortal danger of one kind or another. Why is she getting sent back? What is the purpose?

I will warn you – Butler wrote a very real depiction of slave life in this story. Some of the details are more gory than some people care to read about, but there was nothing gratuitous about it. Dana, with her 20th century upbringing, experiences the brunt of what it was to be a slave in the Old South. As one Goodreads reviewer put it, “Butler wastes no time in demonizing what was demonic.” Butler demonstrates the twisted thinking that white slaveowners held with regards to their “property.” She depicts the punishments they unleashed. She gives voice to the slaves themselves, and what they did to merely survive. It made this book difficult to read at times, but the story drew me in so much I couldn’t help but follow Dana as she struggles to figure out her purpose in being sent in time and in her own survival.

Certainly give this book a read if you’re into time travel stories or historical fiction about early 19th century America. The story and the characters will engage you and could bring up excellent discussion questions in a book group addressing the history of slavery in this country, women’s rights, racial tension, and of course the whole “what if?” factor of “what if this happened to me?” You might even finish this book and feel the urge to get back on the family history horse and see if similar skeletons lie in your closet.

Redeemed, by Margaret Peterson Haddix

RedeemedRedeemed
by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Pub. date September 8, 2015

I have been looking forward to this book since the Missing series started in 2008. Eight books later, I am happy saying goodbye to these characters and excited to see what Margaret Peterson Haddix will come up with next.

I can’t do this book review without also including the series. I loved this series because it includes several of my favorite themes: history, time travel, and the hero’s quest. I enjoy watching characters grow and develop through trials and difficult situations. Having those difficult situations include stories about the lost princes from the Tower of London, the Romanovs, the city of Roanoke, and Albert Einstein was especially satisfying.

The series focuses on Jonah, a boy who is adopted and has discovered he and a group of tweens are from the past—children taken from their time periods, turned back into babies, and adopted/raised by families in the future. Unfortunately, this has disrupted the time continuum and could destroy everything. So, Jonah and these tweens go back into time to fix whatever was broken when they were taken from their time periods.

On its own, I thought this book was good; it was not my favorite in the series since this book focused more on wrapping up loose ends then a story from history. Ms. Haddix has constant twists and turns, with cliff hangers at the end of every chapter. She handles the complexities of time travel well, and she does a good job of portraying the mindset of tweens. The ending is not what I expected, but it works with the rest of the series and has a good message.

Overall, I highly recommend this series. It must be read in order since there are so many twists, turns, and cliffhangers. For those who are leery of romance, there are boyfriend/girlfriend relationships that mention kissing and holding hands. Still, the story is interesting, educational, and well-written with a good moral message.