Book Review: Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

Rating: 3 out of 5.

This one’s been on my TBR shelf for a while, but I finally got it from the library and read it. Time-travel and historical fiction are my favorite genres/plot devices (when done well) and this book does both.

Summary

In 1967, a young black woman named Dana and her white husband Kevin find themselves transported back in time to save Dana’s ancestor named Rufus, a white slave-owner’s son from the 1800’s American South, from imminent danger. Throughout Rufus’s life, Dana keeps appearing to him and while time passes shortly in her time, years pass in his time. While Dana can save her ancestor from physical danger, can she save him from becoming a ruthless slaveholder like his father?

Likes

  • Concept of time-travel. The author did not overcomplicate the concept, which I appreciated. Being a sci-fi author, Butler could have gone into the depths of the physics, etc. about how time-travel worked in this story, but she showed them traveling through time instead of telling us about it, which was an effective choice that kept the story plot-driven instead of genre-driven.
  • Essays & study questions. I thought it was neat that an essay was included at the end of the book that highlighted the author’s historical work on the novel as well as compared this genre to her others in the past. I also like it when study questions are included after a story to invite readers to discuss the themes contained in the book. It can help readers network with one another better.
  • No F-bombs. Enough said.
  • No Explicit Sex Scenes. Dana and Kevin share a couple of sex scenes, but Butler does not dwell on describing them in too much detail, which I am always grateful for. Rape (or the discussion of it) is commonly referred to in this story due to the circumstances surrounding slavery in the 1800’s, which makes me cringe as much as the next person, but I’m very grateful the author did not get graphic when this occurred; I know it happened in the book, but I was spared vivid descriptions about it.

Dislikes

  • Ending. *SPOILER* I had hope for Rufus to turn around his attitude in the end, but the fact he tried to rape our hero made me hate him and lose what hope I had left for his character development.
  • Lack of character development. It seems that only the heroes who travelled through time experienced heightened levels of character growth, which is a little disappointing. I like to see ALL characters (villains, heroes, and supporting characters alike) experience some sort of character development. Butler teases us with the potential of character growth for others in the story, but they instead (Rufus especially) seem to end up back where they began.
  • Plot. The main plot in this story had a lot of potential, but sort of fell short for me in terms of a gripping, evolving story. The story had a lot of repeating occurrences told in different ways that ended up becoming predictable.

Conclusion

After reading this book, I thought that Butler was a historical fiction author, but after reading the essay at the end, I guess she usually writes more science fiction than I thought. While I liked the concept of time-travel in this book, I wish the plot was developed a little bit more. It was neat to read a story that focused more on the historical elements rather than the science of time-travel, which is a theme that can get distracting at times if not done well, but I believe Butler successfully tried something different from her regular science-fiction writing.

Published by Ashley Weaver

I am a writer, reader, student, and teacher of literature and the English language.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: