Added Octavia Butler’s Kindred to my book recommendations list. Scary book. Excellent.

[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at My old book review webpage is no longer up, but I’ve pasted the text of my review below.]

This is the second book of Butler’s that I’ve read, after Parable of the Sower. If possible, it is even more terrifying. The story is standard-issue science fiction, with an ethnic-historical twist: a modern-day black woman is called back in time again and again to save the life of a white Southern plantation owner; if he dies without fathering a certain child — her ancestor — she will never come to exist. What this brief summary leaves out is the wrenching drama of the actual book. I can’t even comprehend what kind of complex genius makes Butler able to describe slavery in such realistic, emotional detail. I have read the major slave narratives all students of American history have to read, and a decent amount of the analysis that has grown up around them, but somehow this book makes it more frightening, more understandable, and more believeable than any of those documents ever did. (One of my professors, Jennifer Spear, must have agreed, because it was she who recommended this book to our class.) It also delves deeply into the nature of human relationships, the complicated web that binds us together.

Classification: First, if you are at all interested in southern American slavery or slave networks, read this book. It is a revelation. Even if you don’t consider yourself particularly interested, though, it’s a spellbinding read. I recommend for this book much what I recommend for Parable of the Sower: you’ll have to read this all at once, because it sucks you in too much to let you put it down. Read it in a well-lighted place, where you feel safe. And if you have a significant other, for heaven’s sake make sure that person is next to you!

I do not own this book.