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Kindred by Octavia Butler Book Review

Kindred Synopsis

For those that haven’t read the book, Kindred is a story that follows Dana, a black woman from the 1970s. Dana is sorting through her things after recently moving in with her husband when she is called back to the past. What we quickly find out is that she is taken back to the early 1800s, when slavery was very much a reality for black people. 

It turns out that the reason she is being called back to the past is so that she can save her distant relative, Rufus, when he finds himself in danger. However, Rufus is the son of a plantation slave owner in the antebellum south, which puts Dana in a very difficult position. 

Only when her own life is threatened is she able to go back to her own time in the 1970s. Throughout the book, the reader is taken on a journey of Dana’s new life as she is transported between the past and present.

My Review of Kindred

Kindred is one of those books that just blows you away. From start to finish it was a complete page-turner that kept you on your toes, wanting to know more. I found this book really difficult to put down, which is when you know it’s a good one.

I think the main reason why this book works so well is because it is not only well-written, but you really get emotionally attached to the characters in the book. It is so much more than just a complex historical fiction novel. This book is a memoir of slavery, a reflection on history, a door between the present and the past, and so much more. 

Although this is a fictional novel, it feels very much real. Of course, it is based on the very real subject of slavery, which is still a raw part of history today, but it somehow manages to make you feel like it is reality. Although it is not based upon a true story, it is still a familiar story that holds so much power. 

Rufus and Dana

From the very first time that Dana travels back to the past to meet Rufus, I was rooting for their relationship to be a positive one. He is only a child when they first meet, and so I hoped that he would learn from Dana. However, the difficulty with this is that time in the present passes very slowly, whereas years can pass by in this time in the past. So, there are many years where Rufus is left with nothing but his own brutal father as an example of how to act and behave.

There are times when Butler makes us think that there might be a chance for Rufus to be a good person, but any goodness in him slowly slips away by the end of the novel. His relationship with Alice is what finally convinced me that he could not be saved, and this was a sad reality to be presented with. The idea that children are not born inherently evil stuck with me throughout the book, but any purity within this character is slowly stripped away by his surroundings as he grows older.

It is made clear that Dana and Rufus both love one another, but ultimately, this is not enough. Rufus’s idea of love is warped and very selfish.

Dana and Kevin’s Relationship

The relationship between Dana and Kevin is very complicated, and it only grows more complex as the story goes on. When Kevin follows Dana into the past, everything changes for them. As an interacial couple, they face many difficulties in the past that cannot be overlooked, and while they both have very different experiences, it changes them as people. Even now, I am unsure about how I feel about Kevin as a character. While his intentions are good, there is something about him that annoys me at times. 

One quote that really stuck with me from the book is “Time passed. Kevin and I became more a part of the household, familiar, accepted, accepting. That disturbed me too when I thought about it. How easily we seemed to acclimatize.” This idea only becomes more disturbing as long periods of time pass by while they are in the past.

Tackling Slavery

Something that I loved about this book was the way that Butler didn’t try to tone down the issue of slavery. She really highlighted how people actually lived during this time period, and although there is a lot of physical and mental violence, it highlights the strength that would have been required to live through such a traumatic time. 

The way that this is shown through Dana’s character gives her a lot more depth, and it really shows the reader what kind of a person she is. As Well as this, the rawness of these scenes really speaks to the reader and brings the past to life again. 

Tom Weylin

Tom Weylin, Rufus’s father in the book, is a vile and cruel man that beats and whips his slaves to keep them in line. However, even though he is an awful and violent individual, he is also a fair man, and he keeps his word. I had mixed feelings about Tom Weylin throughout my reading of Kindred, as there were times where his actions would surprise me. It does leave me wondering that if Rufus had a better role model, would he have turned out the way that he did? Perhaps.

Summary

Overall, I absolutely loved this story, and I thought that it was very well written. This book has a way of throwing you into the past, and making you feel like you really know the characters in the book. You get so absorbed into the book that it becomes reality, and the fact that it was a reality for some people just makes the message even more powerful. I would recommend this book to anyone that is thinking about reading it. You won’t regret it.