Review: Kindred


By Octavia Butler
Beacon Press, 9780807083697, 2004, 264pp.

The Short of It:

Not your typical science fiction read.

The Rest of It:

Dana and her husband Kevin find themselves in a unique situation. While celebrating her 26th birthday at their home in California, Dana becomes dizzy and then disappears before Kevin’s eyes. In an instant, Dana is transported to a Southern plantation. Her mission is apparently to save the white child who is drowning in front of her but this simple act of kindness earns her a shotgun pointed at her face when the plantation owner believes her to be the cause of his boy’s condition, not the other way around. As a black woman, Dana quickly realizes that if she doesn’t watch herself, she could end up enslaved along with the other slaves on the plantation.

This novel uses time travel to tell its story. Each time Dana goes back, Rufus, the young boy she saved is a little bit older and more like his father every day. Although Rufus makes disappointing choices which often result in a beating for Dana, she somehow feels a connection to him. And then when Dana’s husband Kevin enters this strange world along with Dana, things become much more complicated as Kevin is white, and the people of this time period don’t believe in a marriage between a white man and a black woman.

This is a strange story. I was immediately pulled in by the premise but it continually felt wrong to me and no explanation is given regarding the events in this story. We never learn why Dana has been called to return to this time. There is a short mention of ancestors and it is implied that Rufus is family. I suppose you don’t really need an explanation for the story to work but I was looking for one.

Butler does a good job of depicting plantation life and expressing the horrors through Dana’s eyes. If you’ve maxed out on slavery books this one might be one for you to try because it’s very different and hey, it’s science fiction.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

14 thoughts on “Review: Kindred”

  1. Rufus is Dana’s grandfather (not sure how many “greats” need to be added), so if she lets him die, she will never be born, or she may cease to exist. The gross thing is she knows the only way that Rufus can be her grandfather is if he rapes a slave woman. The whole thing is morally barfy, but she has to navigate it to save herself.

  2. It sounds like an unsettling story. I have not read this author yet …. but I want to …. even though she’s known for sci fi …. and that’s not something I usually read.

    1. She wrote a book titled The Parable of the Sower which hints at all the things we are currently dealing with now and of course it was written some time ago. One of the members of my club said it was pretty remarkable to read that and then be shutdown.

      I was watching a Laker game the other day and the virtual fans reminded me of the TV Parlor in Fahrenheit 451. It’s weird to be living in the world that these authors created years ago.

    1. Can you even imagine? I saw the trailer to the new movie Antebellum and apparently that is loosely based on Kindred. It is a horror movie and it’s release date was pushed back but it would be horrifying to have to go back in time and find that your very existence relies on a slaveholder raping someone.

  3. Interesting premise, but I think this one just isn’t going to do it for me. Time travel doesn’t really grab me.

  4. I loved this book and even compelled my husband to read it, which is rare for me because he doesn’t read much fiction. I was able to look past the machinations of the time travel, I’m usually not that forgiving about time travel because I really prefer to understand what caused it, but in this case, it somehow didn’t feel important to me. Not sure how to explain that because it wasn’t a decision I took – just the way the book was written made the time travel aspect of the book not so important and the horrors of the intersection of modern vs history the focal point.

    1. Without spoiling it for anyone, I think the issue I had with the time travel had to do with her injury. But I understand what it stands for now, after my discussion but I didn’t at first. That movie Antebellum which just came out on Apple TV, was supposed to be in theatres but you know, COVID, that is loosely based on the premise in Kindred. The trailer is pretty good.

      1. A twitter discussion I read about Antebellum said it could have been so much better; it is not respectful of black women but exploitative, calling it slavery porn. The review article was convincing that I do not need to see this movie.

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