for the A More Diverse Universe #diversiverse Tour:
<– click here to learn more. And the schedule is –> here <–.
Though this book is labeled ‘Science Fiction’ and presumably because it has a time travel component, it offers no technicalities; the phenomena of time travel is not explored. This is probably one of my problems with the story, although I highly appreciated the explanation (found in the Reader’s Guide at the end of the book) in the Critical Essay by Robert Crossley.
BEWARE: SPOILERS! (I don’t think it really ruins it to know all this, though. I beg forgiveness in advance.)
Our protagonist is Dana, a young black woman, newly married to Kevin, a white man. They have only one day moved into the house they purchased; their first home. Both are writers.
All of a sudden, Dana feels dizzy and disoriented and feels pulled into another dimension. She finds herself in rural Maryland on the side of a river. She sees a young boy drowning and runs to rescue him. The boy’s parents, however, are not grateful for the help, because she has appeared out of nowhere and is doing who-knows-what (mouth to mouth) to their son! The father points a gun at Dana and begins to question her but her fear sends her back home to California, to her home, to her husband. He says she has only been gone a few minutes, if that.
Here is where I didn’t get quite convinced by Dana’s attitude. She instantly assumes it will happen again rather than question the WTF of it all. Sure, if you have to ask, I’m not sure what she should have done differently but this acceptance of it rather than the shock of it had me question that something-something. But roll along with it, I did anyway.
Of course, it happens again — later that same day in Dana’s ‘real’ life. She once again feels dizzy and prepares for another travel back. She ends up meeting the same boy but he is older. She gains enough information about where she is, who the boy is and what year it is, that she discovers that this place she is pulled to is her ancestral home in 1815. She gets sent to the past when the boy’s life is threatened and she gets sent to her present when her life is threatened.
A time of slavery. A time of peril for ‘undocumented’ black people wandering around. Especially black women. Dana faces all of it courageously and with mostly calm detachment, hoping only to survive herself as well as not interfere with how her family gets established. Perhaps ‘detachment’ isn’t quite the right word, but she certainly is thoughtful and intelligent about her situation rather than hysterical. She lives in two worlds and realizes the craziness of it, but does the best she can. She is bright, resourceful, understandably angry and astute. She is a modern woman thrust into a violent time when she had no rights. Her ability to balance this precariousness was amazing. And I thought extremely well-done.
Except for a few perplexities on my end as to Dana’s AND her husband’s motivations and reactions, I did think this story was fascinating. Butler did an outstanding job describing life on a plantation and both exploring what might be considered typical expectations of life ‘back then’ but also how personalities varied and were not stereotypical. The characters were fleshed out, authentic and not just political pawns, so to speak.
A fascinating look at slavery in American in the early nineteenth century.
Rating: Four slices of pie.