Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Perhaps I should have read the reviews before I picked up this book. I had heard through word of mouth how amazing it was. How it truly captured the feel of the Old South and what it must have been like to be a slave during that time. How it was this amazing mashup of science fiction and literature. I heard these things from multiple sources from which I generally get excellent recommendations. I think you know where this is going.
Kindred is the story of a “modern” (1970s) African American woman and her husband who live in California. Her husband is white, but I can’t remember the author letting you know this until a quarter of the way through the book. One day, without explanation, she is magically transported to the 1820s on a Maryland plantation where she is immediately finds herself saving the life of a young white boy. Shortly after this, she is transported back to her home and her time to deal with a confused husband. She pops back and forth several times throughout the novel, each time for a longer period of time and each time so that she can save the boy’s life.
I found this book to be completely devoid of human emotion. Everything from the dialogue to the descriptions was presented in a matter of fact tonality. I cannot understand why none of the characters aren’t freaking out about her jumping back and forth in time. At one point she and her husband are separated. For her it’s two months, for him it’s five years. Neither of them portrays any emotion or sense of urgency about the matter at all. When they arrive home after he’s been gone for five years, he acclimates back into real life with no identifiable emotional issues after two weeks.
I do, of course, understand the idea that to a certain extent, Dana would have to curb her emotions being a black woman suddenly thrust into this world. She would have to watch how she behaved and how she spoke. The author did nothing to give any meat to the emotions that should have been involved in something of this magnitude happening in these people’s lives. Where’s the PTSD? Why isn't anyone crying or shrieking or curled up in the corner? Seriously. I can live without a scientific answer as to why this was happening, but the lack of interest the characters showed in finding out was infuriating. No one ever wanted to talk it out, instead all discussions had to wait until after they slept. As though anyone could possibly sleep after an experience like that.
I was beyond disappointed in this novel. Google lists it as “Butler’s bestselling literary science fiction masterpiece”. I’m agog. Maybe the graphic novel is better. It certainly can’t be worse. I suppose I’ll never know.
I’ll tell you to save yourself the trouble on this one. But if you’re like me? You aren’t reading this before you read the book anyway.
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