If I used to doubt I could like a book about time travel, I sure have been proven wrong this week.
If framed in a way that reminds me of how time travel books are just stories about history, I am likely more willing to take a chance and read on.
My writing mentor has helped me see that I could travel to another country to have new experiences and go for my goals, so why not be the one to prove me and my dislike for time travel novels wrong too?
Travel. Time travel. These two share a few similarities.
With both (one fictional and the other super easy with the invention of aviation especially), we learn a lot about another place and people we’d never met otherwise.
I often wonder how I would react to find myself in the situation the characters found themselves in here.
I like to think I could cope. We all make do. I would adapt. I am good at that.
I don’t have practice living without luxuries like plumbing and running water and indoor toilet facilities. I guess I would do poorly in a time travel situations, not that anyone swept up by it in this particular book had much of a choice.
I do love history a lot, especially the history of the last few centuries.
My writing mentor shares books and I likely wouldn’t have found this one:
if it hadn’t been for her recommending it.
It was an audio book. I like to do the reading sometimes, but other times, I like to be able to just sit back and let someone else bring the story to life through their own storytelling ability. It’s like its own little piece of performance art. I’m not sure I would have the skill to make any story I might read come alive to the listeners in this way myself.
This story was a lot more than time travel, but really that has its place. I should have learned from the whole Lord of the Rings and fantasy genre experience.
Kindred is about an interracial couple in California in 1976. One day, while moving into their first home together, Dana is putting books away on a shelf when she starts feeling strange. Before she knows what has happened, the room, her husband, and the year she is living in all vanish and she finds herself on a riverbank.
After she suddenly hears cries and ends up saving a young child from nearly drowning, she finds herself in another time and about to embark on a strange back-and-forth adventure, from 1976 to the early 1800s. She and this child will become linked, through time and space, for reasons beyond either one of their comprehensions, until that link is finally severed for good.
I would recommend reading this book, as it is written so much better than I could ever sum up here, but instead I can speak to what this particular story ended up meaning to me.
Whether it’s 1819 or 1976 or 2016, some things are radically different and yet others aren’t really so different at all.
The biggest difference is, of course, that in the early 19th century, slavery was in full force in the United States of America. But, even if it was abolished one hundred years or more prior to the year 1976, a lot of the deeply ingrained cultural beliefs were still evident. Even though the 1960s was known as the decade of Civil Rights, things hadn’t evolved all that much by the 70s.
A lot of things take years and years to know in reality. A country hardly changes enough for all of its citizens in the years of any one person’s lifetime, or multiple generations.
All the racial tensions that seem to be building once more in the US of today have always been there. Rights have been fought hard for and laws eventually changed, but changing hearts and minds of a country’s people can’t be legislated.
Far from me to lecture, but denial that the problem was as bad or still is, this is more common than most people would like to think or are capable of even hearing.
So many of the scenes in the pre-Civil War era of Kindred involved life on a plantation and vivid descriptions of the mistreatment of slaves, the deep seeded ranking of white people and slave owners being above the dark skinned people they had control over, this was all stuff I’d heard about. How anyone could ever truly believe another human being who looked different was less human is beyond me. But that is the point I suppose. That time was beyond me. I like to take the holier-than-thou stance that I never would or could’ve stood for treating a dog let alone a person like people were treated then, but I know I can’t say that for sure.
My mind struggles to try and understand it. I can’t.
Even while I read and learn, even fictionally about that time in history, I can’t comprehend fully. Of course I can’t.
It was the repeated descriptions of whippings that were hardest to take. Many times I reflexively began to reach over to turn off the book or to get up, to distract myself from the words and the meaning behind them, but I couldn’t. Something held me there.
I felt as baffled when the black and white couple (Dana and Kevin) told their families about their plans to marry in 1976 and were met with nothing but disdain, as much as by many of the things I heard when time travel had taken them, (in a way me), back in time to 1819.
I think a lot of us would much rather live in a bit of a denial state, than to almost force ourselves to hear things we don’t want to hear and learn the facts that we can never unlearn. I know I would, but then my mouth would always be so full of sand from my head being stuck in it.
Not sure a so-called book review can be written through stream of consciousness writing. Most times, we think of book reviews as the book reports we were told to do in school. I don’t think this necessarily has to be so.
These are just a few of my thoughts while reading. I just wanted to take a moment here, on record, to make note of one book I am very glad I listened to. I think books like this are more important than ever.