If there was ever a book that I could not put down and learned so much from, illness but I absolutely hated reading through… Kindred was that book.
As many of you know, drugstore I am very much a “feeler”. I’m emotionally sensitive, and I have no problem with putting myself in the shoes of others to empathize with them and help them through tough times. I tend to take that responsibility upon myself without even realizing it. There is one drawback to this “super power” that I have. Whenever I am reading a book, I internalize what the characters are going through and I can’t turn it off.
TL;DR: This book made me feel like Deanna Troi.
I can tell you now, days after I started this post and finished this book that I’m in a bit of a funk. This girl normally finishes a book and picks up the next the same night, but I needed a break after this one. I think there was a lot for me to mull over, and it was an especially dark book. I’m having a very hard time finding anything positive that happened to the main character outside of her horrible escape.
As I mentioned in my first post about Kindred, the story does deal with time travel and definitely deals with slavery as its strongest theme.
The main plot of the story is that a woman from 1970s California is called back to the antebellum south (meaning that it’s before the American Civil War) to save her family lineage. She realizes after her first trip that she needs to make sure that her ancestor Hagar is born… or she will never be born. In order to do this, she finds that she’s called back to save the son of a slave owner from multiple life and death situations that he gets himself into.
It’s very interesting how the surroundings of a person can and will change them. In the beginning the boy, Rufus, was a moldable young child. He was surrounded by bigoted people who viewed slaves as property, but his views were still a bit of a clean slate when Dana came into his life. I think I spent most of my time reading through the book praying that he’d grow up to be different than his father. Dana tried her best to impact his life and change the lives of the other slaves at the same time. Admittedly, she made quite a bit of an impact, but Rufus was continually surrounded by people who treated slaves and free blacks poorly. With Dana’s many absences, this bigotry rubbed off on him.
The slaves themselves submitted to the punishment because they feared for their lives and continued the cycle. I would never say anything like that if it was not something I sensed in the book. Dana tried to act the part of the slave, but didn’t fit in. The people around her knew that she was different because her attitude, even while trying her best to act, was very independent and assertive. They kept telling her that she was a white black, not just because of her education. The slaves made her feel that by acting like a “white” black, she was a bit of a traitor to the other slaves around. Rufus even viewed Dana differently for quite a while and compared to the many other slaves on the plantation, treated her much better.
It wasn’t until Dana was whipped in the fields by the field overseer that everyone started viewing her as a “slave” and many of the other slaves were disappointed that she gave up her position, even though they still didn’t like that she was treated differently to begin with. After the horrific beating, Dana did more than play the part. She was the part. The biggest change was in here relationship with Rufus, which had been fairly informal. After that day in the field, she avoided the masters of the house for quite some time. It was easy to tell that her resolve to not be part of that time had been broken. Dana was broken.
I was also very bothered by the type of “love” I saw in this book. It was not the type of love that I originally thought I would find. As you read through the book, you realize that Rufus has become infatuated with Alice, even though Alice is already married to a slave named Isaac. Rufus has the same obsessive love towards Dana. Rufus gets angry whenever Dana leaves, he does not want her to leave with her husband, and he sells a slave named Sam after he talks to Dana. Rufus tries to blame his issues with this improper form of love on the ones he holds in this love. This “obsessive love” is seen throughout the story and it ends in the deaths of two of the main characters in the book.
I hate to say it, but I find that I almost find Rufus’s father to be a better man of character than Rufus in some points. Or should I say he’s at least more “stable”. Tom Weylin was harsh. The one thing we find though, is that Tom Weylin is harsh about everything. Minor infractions still receive major punishment. Tom is a man of his word, while Rufus believes that it’s OK to lie to people. Rufus tends to be more lenient on the slaves, but he also is very unstable. His punishments may be non-existent for “huge infractions” to extremely harsh for something that would be considered minor. He sells a man because he was talking to Dana.
This book is definitely one to read if you haven’t already, just be aware that it is a MAJOR emotional drain. There are no points that will make you laugh along the way. I believe that it properly portrays the pain the slaves in the south went through. I believe it shows the manners of their captors. I also believe that most of us could never even imagine the hard times that slaves went through in that time. It’s a hard and dark read, but you’ll learn something valuable about human nature.
Megan A.K.A. “Booksnob”