Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Kindred Review...Sigh.

Before I post my review (which is also posted on Goodreads) let me tell you what this book is about.

Kindred is about a young black woman named Dana who time-travels from the 1970s to meet her slave ancestors. In order to ensure that she is born, she must save the life of her ancestors' unstable slave master, named Rufus. Rufus is a little boy when she first meets him, but grows into an adult as the story progresses. As he ages, he becomes more ruthless with the slaves and with Dana.

Conveniently enough, Dana is also teleported through time with her conveniently white boyfriend, Kevin. Conveniently their love is tested by racism and conveniently, albeit predictably, Kevin and Dana end up separated in time (I love writer's conveniences, don't you?)

Together, they must re-live the worst of American history all so Dana can actively assist her white slave masters in the rape, torture, and killing of her ancestors. Hurray! By the end of the book, she loses her arm and stabs Rufus to death so Kevin and Dana can go on with their passionless marriage in the 1970s. Spoiler alert, sorry.

But lovely setting, right?

As I posted on Goodreads...

KindredKindred by Octavia E. Butler

My rating:
3 of 5 stars

I really wanted to like this book. I really really did. For one, I am a black female sci-fi writer (like Octavia Butler) so just out of fellowship alone, I WANTED to LOVE this book. And like Dana, I am in an interracial relationship with a white man. So I was stoked when I heard about this book. I really wanted to treasure it.

Unfortunately for myself and for Ms. Butler, I just couldn't get past the sloppy, disjointed sentences, her uninteresting, lukewarm characters, and the overall far-fetched plot. It just felt hackneyed. Contrived. Plot holes everywhere. It read like the author was hitting me over the head--dumbing it down so that I should look away from the weaknesses in her characterization, plot, and syntax and focus solely on the graphic ways the slaves were treated. Which would be a great reminder of American history and racism if I was white. But I'm not. I still feel the residual effects of slavery, as does any black person (in America, anyway) so I don't need to be reminded how hard it was for the slaves. Hell, it's still hard now! As a black person reading this, I felt "talked-down" to...spoon-fed. This book wasn't for me, but for white people who had forgotten history, folks who assumed "stuff like racism" no longer existed in this world. That being said, I am/was less likely (than a non-black person) to forgive the flaws in this book.

For such a profound subject matter, the author chose to rush through the plot--there was no character development I saw (except for Rufus, who, by far, was the most thought-out character in the entire novel!) Poor Kevin was used simply as a plot device, as was the time travel aspect of this story. There's no explanation as to why Dana and Rufus can go through time. No explanation for why her arm gets stuck in the wall. It took Dana to 3/4 of the book to finally get around to Alice, but seeing how Alice is brutally raped repeatedly throughout the story, it makes no sense for Dana to assume she is needed for the birth of Hagar.

At times, I literally wanted to throw the book at the wall and not read it anymore. It was just too much! It made me angry because the characters were all so useless and stupid, and the dialogue so stunted and repetitive, that I stopped caring whether Dana would get back to Kevin--I was almost hoping she wouldn't because she kept saving Rufus when he continued to abuse her and the others. Her character was too flimsy to hold up to the author's narrative. She fluctuated as heroine and victim, but mostly, remained a victim by her own choosing throughout the book.

But...I will say that the IDEA of this story is amazing. The author knew how to draw us into the book, into the story. It is the EXECUTION of her storytelling that falls short for me. I give it 2.5 stars out of 5. It is an imaginative story--unique and one-of-a-kind. But the fantastical elements are not enough for me to overlook everything else. I am a writer, myself, so I can't forgive the technicality of it all.

I would recommend this book to high school students.

View all my reviews >>


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