This book had me wanting to slap a lot of people. Mind you, I’ve only slapped one person in my life. If I’ve already committed to the action by thinking about it, this a significant increase. I also posted this review to everywhere but my blog so far, which is not the usual order. Now everything is upside down.
Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.
After reading the first chapter and rolling my eyes a little, I’m thinking Dana will save this white kid and he’ll love her and be a good person and all that jazz. Yeah, no…I got a kick-in-the-pants surprise.
Rufus develops this need for Dana that at first is childlike and a response to trauma, but as he gets older and needs her more often, he starts to show his true colors. Graciously, Dana still sees him like a child and knows his actions are driven by trauma and his world, but she can’t give up her self-respect. She can try and blend into the environment though, and her husband helps and hinders at the same time. This complex tug-of-war is what makes everyone so slappable and the ending so sad and satisfying at the same time.
“Good person” is a difficult thing to understand. My modern sensibilities have a really hard time with it, and Butler takes opportunities to put “good” behaviors in a historical perspective while reminding the reader that it’s still not OK. That is part of why I am thoroughly enjoying my reads this year. With a few exceptions too many authors shy away from these intricate issues, or don’t show how complex they are. I find that many black authors just “got there,” which I appreciate very much.
This book is brutal and yet somehow necessary.
I’ve been reading author’s notes in all the books I come across, and this book as some amazing notes resources for more information.