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Kindred by Octavia E Butler - Book Group Choice for Jan 2021 - discussion thread

14 watchers
26 Jan
7:19am, 26 Jan 2021
56965 posts
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I’m pleased Columba largely agrees with me.
26 Jan
10:08am, 26 Jan 2021
17152 posts
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It seems like it's the least science-fictiony of Butler's books, and is essentially an outlier in her oeuvre. I'm interested to see what some of her more outlandish ones are like, New Yorker points out that Parable of the Sower is very prescient:

"Kindred" also almost runs counter to Butler's "afro-futurist" leanings (exposition nicked from Mark Dery/Lorenzo Montefinese - ".... they (the books) depict possible futures and alternate realities in which blacks are empowered and freed from the enduring oppression they’re subjected to").

I think it's also interesting that it was published in 1979, and where as it might feel a bit unsubtle to modern sensibilities, the "modern day" scenes in the books are technology free and set in a kind of timeless setting.
26 Jan
8:38pm, 26 Jan 2021
18721 posts
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Just finished and took me about 2 days which is unusually quick for me. I was hooked from page 1 and really enjoyed the story.

I am not a Sci-Fi type person but I do enjoy the historical nature of books and its was that part I found fascinating to reflect on what life may have been like for black americans at that time.

I did feel that the Weylins maybe were not quite as white slave owners of the time would have been and Dana seemed to be accepted and fit in.

Like others said I would have liked to hear more about Kevin's time alone. I was also confused that he seemed to be struggling to life back in 1976, then after a 3 hour absence he seemed to have gotten over it and was back to normal.

An 8 for me
21 Feb
11:08am, 21 Feb 2021
2911 posts
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Minnie Mad
I've finished, and I apologise for it taking me so long! I would say it's not really my type of thing as I'm not keen on violence and I do prefer a happy ending! However, once I got into it, it was a fairly compelling story. Dana keeps getting pulled back into the past into the 1800s to save her ancestor's life. She's black, he's a white slave owner. It's quite a tightly written novel in the first person and the language used is quite matter of fact whether describing the happier moments, of which there aren't many, or the horrific violence towards the slaves.

As others have mentioned it really put me in mind of the Time Traveller's Wife and as this book is often read in American Schools, in the same way all our kids seem to read "Of Mice and Men", perhaps that's where the author got the idea. Dana quickly works out that she is drawn to her ancestor when his life is in danger and pushed back to 1976 when her own life is threatened. She is able to take a rucksack and a map and even her husband with her when she time travels, although Henry in TTW always arrives elsewhere on his timeline naked and without everything including fillings. Dana seems happy enough at the end to accept her ancestry and the biggest theme is all about how you can't choose your ancestors or indeed your family, but at the same time it's hard knowing all of this.

I wasn't quite sure about the bit at the end where she kills her ancestor, after he has fathered the direct decendants with a slave woman that he fancies and then comes to feel some form of affection for, then she comes back to 1976 half in a wall and loses her arm. The authorities think it was her husband being violent to her and it sort of ends there when she goes to Maryland and does some research into what happened to everyone she knew on the plantation.

I'd give it an 8 as a well written novel with a complex theme which could be taught in schools, and a 6 as a story that I enjoyed reading. So I'll rate it as a 7 on the poll!
21 Feb
11:48am, 21 Feb 2021
20930 posts
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I enjoyed that distinction and that compromise Minnie Mad
21 Feb
11:48am, 21 Feb 2021
48630 posts
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Yes, very good review MM
21 Feb
11:58am, 21 Feb 2021
2912 posts
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Minnie Mad
Thank you, I felt obliged to Columba who kindly sent me the book, to finish it properly. Unless anyone else wants it, I'll be adding it to my local red phone box, which is a book exchange.
21 Feb
12:33pm, 21 Feb 2021
805 posts
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Yes, Minnie Mad, also can't do a single mark out of ten: it all depends what you mean by 7/10... Also can't process violence in books or films: even when I understand that it has to be there sometimes. Pan's labyrinth was one film where the cruelty had to be there, and that I had to feel unwell. "12 years a slave" was not going to be manageable.
21 Feb
5:55pm, 21 Feb 2021
20866 posts
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I must admit, I never do the poll.
21 Feb
6:09pm, 21 Feb 2021
48635 posts
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Polls are a bit of a blunt instrument to be sure. It's better though, since we found out about the people who feel compelled to vote in every poll as that at least stops every book scoring a 5 now there's a 'killing the x' option.

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About This Thread

Maintained by McGoohan
Octavia E. Butler's ground-breaking masterpiece, with an original foreword by Ayobami Adebayo.
'The marker you should judge all other time-travelling narratives by' GUARDIAN
'[Her] evocative, often troubling, novels explore far-reaching issues of race, sex, power and, ultimately, what it means to be human' NEW YORK TIMES
'No novel I've read this year has felt as relevant, as gut-wrenching or as essential . . . If you've ever tweeted "All Lives Matter", someone needs to shove Kindred into your hand, and quickly' CAROLINE O'DONOGHUE

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