January Book Club: Kindred

Oh. My. Goodness. I don’t even know where to start on this book, so let’s start with the piece I was looking forward to the most: time travel. Time travel, something that often looks different depending on the story and rules that contradict each other. In general, there is typically a mentality that what you do in the past has already had an effect on the future. With this in mind, Dana never faces the “will I succeed in this” challenge because Butler removed it from the equation with her rules of time travel:

  1. Dana will automatically go back in time when Rufus’s life is in danger.
  2. Dana will automatically go forward in time when her own life is in danger.

This means that the reader and Dana can make the following assumption whenever Dana goes back in time: Dana will save him and then be stuck in his time until her life is in danger. In fact, this assumption is made so early on in the book that it’s almost written verbatim as the description of the book, making this the first book I’ve ever read where time travel doesn’t move the story. In Kindred, time travel causes the story but is otherwise not a motivator. We even know that Dana is going to find her way back in the end because the beginning of the book starts with Dana being in the hospital.

This brings me to the second thing that I should probably talk about: time, or rather the passage of it. The movement of time in Kindred is fascinating because Dana can spend months with Rufus, only to come back to minutes passing in her own time. Kevin spent 5 years back in time, only to miss 8 days of his own. In the past, time is not stalled, but in the present time moves forward based upon whether or not Dana is there. Time is disorienting, making you question the year while also reminding Dana that her wounds are still fresh and she needs to be careful.

The final thing I want to talk about is something that Dana told Kevin when they went back in time together: We’re just observers. First of all, I cannot imagine being thrown back in time to a place that was fundamentally unsafe for me while trying to safe someone who would grow up to be one of the reasons that I was unsafe. Now that I’ve said that, can we really say that Dana and Kevin were simply observers of a time? Kevin spent time helping slaves escape. Dana tried to change the lives of those around her. Personally, I wouldn’t call them observers, I would argue that they were fighting towards something they knew was right because the future gave them the hope required to be brave.

Kindred is a book that implemented ideas that I knew in a way that I hadn’t experienced in a book before and that was one of the reasons that it was fun to read. It’s also one of the reasons I finally reached for The Help By Kathryn Stockett, I wasn’t done reading about the importance of time and perspective.

In honor of my historical fiction kick, February’s book club with be Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton. I’m afraid I don’t remember why this one ended up on my “to read list”, but I admit that the cover had something to do with it.

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

After the death of her beloved grandmother, a Cuban-American woman travels to Havana, where she discovers the roots of her identity–and unearths a family secret hidden since the revolution…

Havana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, nineteen-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba’s high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country’s growing political unrest–until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary…

Miami, 2017. Freelance writer Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa’s last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth.

Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba’s tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she’ll need the lessons of her grandmother’s past to help her understand the true meaning of courage.

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