Book Review

Book Review: Kindred


Rating: 4 1/5 Stars
Date Started: 9 June 2017
Date Finished: 12 June 2017
Pages: 306
Genre: Historical Fiction

This is one of those books that aren’t quite 5 stars, but which will stay with you for a long time…

It’s difficult to gather my thoughts to write a coherent review for Kindred, which usually happens when I come across a book that is as jarring as this. There were scenes of abuse so heart rending that I can’t even begin to try and articulate how I feel about it. Suffice it to say that I’m so grateful that I didn’t live in that era. Not because I wouldn’t want to see that happening (which I seriously don’t), but because I’m scared that like the characters in this book, I’d get used to it and it would just be a part of everyday life after a while.

I never realized how easily people could be trained to accept slavery.

This line in particular is one that will haunt me for a long time to come. And I think that’s good. I think it’s important to remember, because there are all kinds of slavery. Coming from an abusive household, I recognized a lot of the mental games that were part and parcel of slavery. And I also recognized it in today’s society with the news and politicians and wars getting progressively worse and desensitizing us to the atrocities that happen on a regular basis.

There were a lot of plot holes, and most of it didn’t make sense even in the context of the story, but that just underlines the irrationality of it all. At the end of the book, there was this essay, and one of the lines caught my eye and explains why these things don’t detract from the story:

“Kindred, one could say, is no more rational, no more comfortably explicable than the history of slavery itself.”

Dana was an extremely relatable heroine. She didn’t have special powers or knowledge that helped her defeat the baddies. She was just a regular person that extraordinary things happened to, and she had to deal as best she could. She was definitely brave, though after a while (desensitization) she got used to being a slave and her bravery faded into the background. And you can’t fault her because as you read along, you’re right there… you’re her. You experience her pain and the after effects and you can’t help but implore her to just go along with it to avoid more pain. And that’s how they kept the slaves in line.

Kevin was a bit more of a mystery, but ultimately I liked him. We don’t really get to know him as intimately as we do Dana, but by his actions and what he tells Dana he did during his own journey, you can kind of get the measure of him. His life was infinitely better than Dana’s when it came to their trip back, but it must also have been difficult for him on a different level than it was difficult for Dana. The 1800’s weren’t very kind to sympathizers and abolitionists…

And then we have Rufus. I didn’t like him at all and while I understand Dana’s reasons for saving him all the time, I still think that she forgave him and let him get away with more than she should have. I get that he’s a product of his time and his upbringing, but damnit, he had the potential to be better! And I guess that’s the ultimate tragedy. It’s easier to swim with the current and believe and act like everyone else tells you to than to stand up against something that’s dangerous to oppose.