By Octavia E. Butler

‘Kindred’ by Octavia E. Butler is, at its core, much more than just a work of historical science fiction but also harsh drilling against racial social injustice.

Victor Onuorah

Article written by Victor Onuorah

Degree in Journalism from University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

With ‘ Kindred ’, readers observe how Octavia E. Butler’s masterly description and art of storytelling – with an easy, minimalistic flow of diction – make the book such an unputdownable piece of art. The book is a complete joy to read and has several takeaways and hidden lessons for readers to walk away with.

A Plunge in the Deep End

Octavia E. Butler – through ‘ Kindred ’ – dares to tackle a range of interesting topics which are considered very complicated and controversial to handle. And despite being written by a Black author, the book doesn’t show signs of pontification.

After reading ‘ Kindred ’, I’m left with one thought: It’s a brave and courageous book, and Butler must have been a brilliant writer of her time for going so deep and thorough on the themes in less than three hundred book pages.

Themes such as gender, violence, power, abuse, slavery, and marriage, among other things, are given a good amount of time in the book; and then there is the time travel aspect which in itself is as intricate as it is perplexing – and usually a stand-alone subject of thought.

Twenty-six years old young female protagonist Dana really does travel back in time on more than a few occasions to save her ancestor from potential life-threatening dangers which, for the most part, are caused by either Rufus himself or his mean father Tom.

Interestingly, it does seem as though Dana has the power to travel through time, but a more keen attention to the facts of the book suggests she doesn’t and is only able to do so because of being summoned somehow, someway into the 1800s by Rufus every time he’s in trouble.

However, Dana does have greater control over departing Rufus’ messy world and back to her own 1976 timeline, and this is usually when she feels afraid or becomes terrified for her life. Butler certainly gets readers in deep water with ‘Kindred’ but is also kind enough to salvage the story in ways that are verifiable and realistic.

The Precariousness of Racial Injustice

Butler is one of the first science fiction genre writers to unite gender, ethnicity, and race with the intricacies of time travel. And although her book ‘ Kindred ’ is mostly classified as belonging to sci-fi, interracial matters clearly top the list of important agendas discussed for the most part of the book.

In ‘ Kindred ’, Butler tries to compare life and the whole living conditions in two distinct realities – first is Dana’s present time of 1976, and second is Rufus’ era of the early 1800s. From a reader’s standpoint, it’s clear that the biggest cause of social instability in both timelines is racism – a concept to which the practice of slavery came to be born.

While policies have greatly improved interracial relationships in Dana and Kelvin’s world, it is a lot worse in Rufus’ world, and this is a major reason readers will notice a streak of political, socio-economic, and socio-psychological backwardness in Rufus’ time.

A Transgenerational Lesson for Posterity

Despite a torturous description of a world where one race dominated over the other – followed by a subsequent sufficing of actions that are abusive as they are dehumanizing, for posterity, the most important take away from Butler’s groundbreaking book ‘ Kindred ’ is the need for all of the human race to stand together in unity, and recognize that we are first of all humans – before we are Black or white.

How good a book is ‘ Kindred ’ for readers?

‘ Kindred ’ is an award-winning novel and considered perhaps the greatest work of prolific writer Octavia E. Butler. This makes it worthwhile for readers – especially if you love books about time travel, family, and interracial marriages.

What lesson can be gleaned from Butler’s book ‘ Kindred ’?

Unity is a strong message subtly passed across by Butler to her readers. There’s a call to unite and bury differences in others to attain a more progressive human society.

How long does it take the average reader to start and finish the novel ‘ Kindred ’?

‘ Kindred ’ is a book with less than three hundred pages, so it shouldn’t take more than a few hours reading a day for the average person.

Kindred Review

Kindred by Octavia Estelle Butler Digital Art

Book Title: Kindred

Book Description: 'Kindred' by Octavia E. Butler is a bold and unifying novel exploring the depth of human division and the potential beauty of unity.

Book Author: Octavia E. Butler

Book Edition: First Edition

Book Format: Hardcover

Publisher - Organization: HarperCollins Publishers

Date published: June 26, 1979

ISBN: 978-0-06-075440-8

Number Of Pages: 261

  • Transitioning

Kindred Review: We Were Humans First, Before We Became Black or White

‘ Kindred ‘ by Octavia E. Butler is a courageous book that dares to unite all people – irrespective of skin color, ethnicity, and gender. The book does so by showing readers the height of humanity’s disunity and how unpretty it could be, and then hints at the beauty and progress a united human race can become. It’s an award-winning book with several appraisals from top publishers and authors. It’s a book to not miss out on.

  • Courageous narrative
  • Promotes unity
  • Easily readable
  • Replete with violent scenes
  • Slightly vague climax
  • Not fact-based

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Victor Onuorah

About Victor Onuorah

Victor is as much a prolific writer as he is an avid reader. With a degree in Journalism, he goes around scouring literary storehouses and archives; picking up, dusting the dirt off, and leaving clean even the most crooked pieces of literature all with the skill of analysis.


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by Octavia E. Butler ‧ RELEASE DATE: Feb. 28, 2009

Butler is one of those accomplished science-fiction writers ( Mind of My Mind , 1977; Survivor , 1978) who tap out their tales so fast and fine and clear that it's impossible to stop reading at any point. And this time the appeal should reach far beyond a sci-fi audience—because the alien planet here is the antebellum South, as seen through the horrified eyes of Dana, a 20th-century black woman who time-travels in expeditious Butler fashion: "The house, the books, everything vanished. Suddenly I was outdoors on the ground beneath trees" . . . in 1819 Maryland. Dana has been "called" by her white ancestor, Rufus—on her first visit, Rufus is a small child, son of a sour slaveowner—and she'll be transported back to Maryland (twice with her white husband Kevin) to rescue Rufus from death again and again. As Rufus ages (the Maryland years amount to hours and days in 1976 time), the relationship between him and Dana takes on some terrifying dimensions: Rufus simply cannot show the humanity Dana tries to call forth; Dana, drawn into the life of slaves with its humiliation and atrocities, treads carefully, trying to effect some changes, but too often she returns beaten and maimed to her own century. And most frightening is the thought that, in the "stronger, sharper realities" of Rufus' time, Dana is "losing my place here in my own time." At one point Kevin and Dana lose one another (Kevin returns haggard, after five years working to help escaped slaves), but finally Dana, fighting off complete possession by Rufus, kills him and that past forever—but not the memories. There is tremendous ironic power in Butler's vision of the old South in science-fiction terms—capriciously dangerous aliens, oppressed races, and a supra-fevered reality; and that irony opens the much-lamented nightmare of slavery to a fresh, vivid attack—in this searing, caustic examination of bizarre and alien practices on the third planet from the sun.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-8070-8310-9

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1979


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New York Times Bestseller

by Max Brooks ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 16, 2020

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020


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by Max Brooks

Devolution Movie Adaptation in Works


by Blake Crouch ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 26, 2016

Suspenseful, frightening, and sometimes poignant—provided the reader has a generously willing suspension of disbelief.

A man walks out of a bar and his life becomes a kaleidoscope of altered states in this science-fiction thriller.

Crouch opens on a family in a warm, resonant domestic moment with three well-developed characters. At home in Chicago’s Logan Square, Jason Dessen dices an onion while his wife, Daniela, sips wine and chats on the phone. Their son, Charlie, an appealing 15-year-old, sketches on a pad. Still, an undertone of regret hovers over the couple, a preoccupation with roads not taken, a theme the book will literally explore, in multifarious ways. To start, both Jason and Daniela abandoned careers that might have soared, Jason as a physicist, Daniela as an artist. When Charlie was born, he suffered a major illness. Jason was forced to abandon promising research to teach undergraduates at a small college. Daniela turned from having gallery shows to teaching private art lessons to middle school students. On this bracing October evening, Jason visits a local bar to pay homage to Ryan Holder, a former college roommate who just received a major award for his work in neuroscience, an honor that rankles Jason, who, Ryan says, gave up on his career. Smarting from the comment, Jason suffers “a sucker punch” as he heads home that leaves him “standing on the precipice.” From behind Jason, a man with a “ghost white” face, “red, pursed lips," and "horrifying eyes” points a gun at Jason and forces him to drive an SUV, following preset navigational directions. At their destination, the abductor forces Jason to strip naked, beats him, then leads him into a vast, abandoned power plant. Here, Jason meets men and women who insist they want to help him. Attempting to escape, Jason opens a door that leads him into a series of dark, strange, yet eerily familiar encounters that sometimes strain credibility, especially in the tale's final moments.

Pub Date: July 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-90422-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016


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by Blake Crouch


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Book Reviews

'kindred' dismantles simplistic views of neanderthals.

Barbara J. King

book reviews kindred

Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art, Rebecca Wragg Sykes Bloomsbury Sigma hide caption

Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art, Rebecca Wragg Sykes

Neandertals are ancient humans who sometimes mated with early Homo sapiens in Europe and Asia — then went extinct around 40,000 years ago. Yet their genes live on in many of us.

If your ancestry traces back to populations outside sub-Saharan Africa, there's a good chance that your genome includes contributions from Neanderthals. In Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art, archaeologist and science writer Rebecca Wragg Sykes explains in splendidly engaging prose why this fact is cause for wonder and celebration.

Neanderthals "possess pop-cultural cachet like no other extinct human species," Wragg Sykes says, but too much of that cachet is constructed from stereotypes. "Neanderthal" is a popular insult, meant to refer to stooped and club-wielding cave people who could hunt pretty well in their Ice Age habitats but were inferior in every way to our own early ancestors. When in the early '90s I began to teach human evolution to college students, even the scientific consensus claimed that Neanderthals, compared to early Homo sapiens , tended to remain locally near their hearth and home sites, eking out a living and incapable of much creativity beyond basic survival.

More than any other book in paleoanthropology I've read, Wragg Sykes convincingly blows up those simplistic views. She describes evidence comprehensively across time (Neanderthals first appeared around 350,000 years ago) and space (Neanderthals lived "from north Wales across to the borders of China, and southwards to the fringes of Arabia's deserts"). The facts show that as innovative tool- and fire-makers, Neanderthals adapted to changing climates. They adopted symbolic cultural practices and expressed profound emotions as they lived day by day.

Of course, Neanderthals didn't look like we do. Their bodies were short and robustly muscled; their skulls featured brow ridges, prominent noses, and an occipital bun (bump) in the back. For years, this anatomy was explained as adaptation to glacial conditions but it turns out that Neanderthals thrived also in steppe-tundra and even Mediterranean woodlands. More than climate, experience sculpted their bodies. Life was "extremely demanding" for them, in terms of making a living. Males and females were doing different things — males' arms for example were asymmetric, suggesting one-handed scraping or possibly spearing, whereas women's lower arms were well-developed, a possible indicator of double-handed hide working.

In describing behavioral patterns Kindred comes most to life, for it's here that our kinship with Neanderthals shines through. The theme Wragg Sykes draws on is one of innovation and creativity — the opposite of those cave-people myths. When it comes to technology, Neanderthals didn't just construct a varied tool kit but also invented composite tools that "imply impressive mental capacity to plan, design and anticipate." They successfully hunted " enormous beasts" including 1,100-lb. horses, but also knew how to take advantage of whatever the regional ecology offered as food, ranging from tortoises to jays and magpies. Judging from how far Neanderthals carried away artifacts from their original sources, individuals moved across as much as 60 miles of the landscape.

Across the millennia are found traces of cultural practices that go way beyond survival. Neandertals incised a hyena bone in ways that suggest an early notation system. The application of color pigment to objects including shells and a geode apparently pleased Neanderthals' aesthetic sense. Wragg Sykes reminds us that classical ideas of art don't take us far enough in appreciating Neanderthals; "sometimes the significance and symbolism may have been in the act of transformation itself." And mysteries remain. What do the elaborate rings that Neanderthals constructed of broken-off stalagmites on the cave floor at Bruniquel in France mean ? We don't know.

Occasionally the writing bogs down in details overly numerous and technical for a wide readership, as when Wragg Sykes describes too many fine distinctions among too many tool types. How you feel about the lyrical introductions she pens to each chapter will depend on your affinity for dense prose like this: "He lingers close to the light of the hearth — fanged ones always follow kills — but his feet dance as the un-made deer arrive on many shoulders, haloed by puffed breath in the frigid air."

Make no mistake, though. What Wragg Sykes has produced in Kindred , after eight years of labor, is masterful. Synthesizing over a century and a half of research, she gives us a vivid feel for a past in which we weren't the only smart, feeling bipedal primate alive. That feel comes across sometimes in startlingly fresh ways. I was entranced by the chapter "Many Ways to Die." Wragg Sykes honors Neanderthal love and grief through describing the burials they planned and carried out. Then she invites us to comprehend a cultural system in which butchery and cannibalism was seen as an "act of intimacy, not violation" and where bodily consumption may have been part of "grief management." Here is mind-expanding popular science!

Why, if they were so competent, cooperative, and cultural, did the Neanderthals die out at the population level? Somehow, they reached a limit to their adaptability. Wragg Sykes thinks it may have been a perfect-storm combination of factors, in which highly unstable climate and competition from Homo sapiens finally proved too much to withstand.Yet to think of the Neanderthals as a failed lineage is plainly wrong: "That the vast majority of living people are their descendants is, by any measure, some sort of evolutionary success."

Kindred tells of another success story, too. "After more than 160 years, we have finally begun viewing Neandertals on their own terms," Wragg Sykes writes. It's about time.

Barbara J. King is a biological anthropologist emerita at William & Mary. Her seventh book, Animals' Best Friends: Putting Compassion to Work for Animals in Captivity and in the Wild , will be published in March. Find her on Twitter @bjkingape .


Review of Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

by Octavia E. Butler

Over a decade ago, I read Lilith’s Brood . I immediately recognized the power of Octavia E. Butler’s writing, her utter willingness to exploit science fiction to the fullest extent that it can comment on our society. Since then, I have always nodded along and agreed every time someone calls Butler a grandmaster of science fiction and fantasy. She is an icon. But I didn’t read anything else by her.

Kindred is the first of many Butler stories I hope to pick up and finally read over the next few years. It’s time to address this fundamental gap in my science fiction experience!

Moving between 1976 and the early nineteenth century, Kindred is more fantasy than science fiction for reasons I’ll discuss shortly. Dana is Black, recently married to a white man named Kevin, and they are moving in together. She begins to be “pulled” through time to the side of a white man named Rufus—first when he was a small boy, and then progressively as he ages, every time apparently when he is in mortal peril. Dana saves Rufus yet inevitably finds herself trapped in Maryland, at the mercy of Rufus’ abusive, slave-owning father, until time pulls her back to 1976 and a distraught husband. As this process repeats, it takes a toll both physical and emotional on Dana.

It’s a commonplace for people to insist that, were they around in the past during times of great upheaval or injustice, they would definitely be on the right side of history. The trouble with this assertion is that in most cases you wouldn’t be , statistically. You would have been brought up into a society in which an injustice like enslavement would be accepted or at least tolerated, and though many people bristled at it and opposed it, the continuation of that institution for so long points to the social inertia it had. Time travel adds another layer to this mix, for Dana is not a woman of the nineteenth century. As the characters from that time point out, she speaks like a white woman sometimes—too educated, too assertive by the standards of the Black women, free and enslaved, around the Weylin plantation. It marks Dana out as different even from her own people, gets her into trouble. But it also reminds us that she is not someone who grew up with slavery.

On Dana’s first two trips to the past, she positions herself as best she can as free. When Kevin inadvertently accompanies her, she poses as his property. Subsequent trips find her power and autonomy further eroded, as first Rufus’ father and then Rufus himself exploit Dana’s fondness for some of their contemporaries to manipulate her. Dana finds herself compromising or at the very least stretching many of her principles, first as a matter of immediate survival in the past and then as a matter of existential survival—for she realizes that if certain events don’t come to pass, she won’t exist.

I mentioned that Kindred isn’t science fiction, and this is why: there is no explanation for Dana’s time-hopping. There is no how or why, no novum that propels her into the past and flings her into the future. It just happens. There’s no obvious magic here either, though, so perhaps the most accurate label is speculative fiction (I just don’t want to create another tag). In any event, I think this choice on Butler’s part is deliberate and important: Butler doesn’t want us to focus on the time travel itself. That is not the plot; stopping it is a desire of Dana’s but not, ultimately, what this story is about.

This is a story about being pushed to one’s limits, and then being pushed past those limits, and deciding how you respond to that.

I would love to see Kindred turned into a movie or television series, but I doubt this will happen any time soon (we’re just going to keep adapting dead white guys like Isaac Asimov, I guess). American media has an obsession with narratives about enslavement but only through the narrow lens of the white viewer. It’s no coincidence that the most successful movies about America’s enslavement of Black people tend to feature intense violence, white saviourism, etc. The movies offer up the idea of redemption in the form of white people who help the Black characters survive and even escape their wretchedness while at the same time attempting to scourge any lingering guilt through the spectacle of violence: oh, look how bad it was back then, it certainly isn’t that bad now! American history, when it even acknowledges enslavement as an institution, firmly insists it is an artifact of the past, with no connections now to racial inequity or slavery in other forms (such as that of prisoners).

Kindred is not that type of narrative about enslavement. It was very uncomfortable to read this. I don’t want to dwell on my discomfort, because I don’t want to centre myself as a white person—but I do think my position as a white person is important to note when I discuss this book. Butler reminds us that our power as individuals is circumscribed by the state, by culture, by society. When Kevin travels to the past with Dana, he has privilege as an educated white man, yet even he can only do so much. Neither he nor Dana really manages to make any real change on the Weylin plantation. The ending of the novel is grim not just for the physical consequences for Dana as she returns to her present for the last time but also because, afterwards, we learn that the worst had come to pass for the enslaved people on the Weylin plantation. Dana is the protagonist of this novel, but she isn’t a hero. In her desire to survive and perhaps to punish Rufus, she makes life worse for the myriad Black people who live on the plantation (I suppose one might argue Dana is caught in a predestination paradox and lacks free will, but as I said above, that’s not what Butler is trying to explore here).

So this isn’t a feel good story about escaping enslavement. Rather, Butler seeks to challenge the reader (especially, I think, us white readers) to truly think about the daily abuse experienced by enslaved Black people (and even free Black people) in that era and such places as Maryland. She reifies slavery in a way that more glorified portrayals cannot, turning it from a hypothetical idea that we know existed as a part of history into something far more … familiar. For you see, Rufus and his father are abusive AF—and that isn’t any different from people in our time. Ownership of others is no longer sanctioned in the same way that it was in theirs, but abusers like the Weylins can still operate and still inflict harm on vulnerable and marginalized people. Maybe, having experienced Dana’s difficulties and the way she comes to understand the plight of her ancestors, we might also turn our empathy towards those who suffer now rather than blame them for their own suffering.

There’s so much more I could say about this book, so many ideas of race and gender politics that Butler explores. I don’t fully have the words (and I must disclose that I’m writing this review about two weeks after finishing the book, so my memory has already begun to fade). All I can really do is hope that what I have said helps you understand that Kindred is a truly special work. Discomforting in its intensity yet energizing in its brilliance, I admire it especially for being a discrete, standalone work. I know this book already has so much praise, but I want it read more. I want it talked about more. Starting with you.

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Grimdark Magazine

REVIEW: Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

  • Book Reviews
  • January 19, 2023
  • By Adrian Collins

book reviews kindred

Last Updated on March 8, 2024

In Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred , Dana discovers she can transport from the 1970’s to the 1800s, where her skin makes her a slave. One moment she’s unpacking in her new house with her husband Kevin, and the next moment she’s saving a child named Rufus from drowning. Fifteen seconds later in her own time, she’s back standing in front of her husband, having lived in 1815 for many minutes more than she’d been away.

Cover for Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

Published in 1979, Kindred is a brilliant read, engaging and written in an easy style I could have read and appreciated back in my teens. What I would not have been prepared for in my teens—and what I probably still can’t fully appreciate as a relatively privileged adult living on the other side of the planet—is the deep, dark look at the horror of a slave’s plantation life. Watching Dana experience both her own ancestors in a life she’d only read about before, plus the slow movement of her mindset as she engaged Rufus over the years and slowly understood what it was like to have her humanity stripped away is just harrowing.

The characters in this book are its strength. From Dana, to Kevin, to Alice, Nigel, and finally Rufus. The fear, the strength, the hateful acceptance of the realities of their life and the repercussions of the failed attempts to better it. Butler doesn’t go into a tremendous amount of gory detail, but you picture it easily based on the knowledge Dana gives you about what happened. Rufus is where grimdark fans will want to get their teeth in a little bit. He’s a horrible human bred from a horrible system, but Dana’s impact and influence on him as he grows from boy to man to slave owner gives you a really good insight into his “why”. And as hard as that must have been to write as an African American author, she did an excellent job of making him a human, with all the aspects that make even the worst of us so.

From a protagonist and main storyline perspective, there isn’t much in the way of grimdark in this book, but I encourage every grimdark fan to give it a read. It’s an experience, and its root in American history makes it an important read in the fantasy genre. The juxtaposition between Dana’s worldview (from 1976) and the world she is teleported into is an excellently delivered concept.

Kindred is a magnificent read. A harrowing, horrible tale told brilliantly to make a significant point about a country’s history and the generational trauma carried across the centuries.

Read Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

Buy this book on Amazon

Adrian Collins

Adrian Collins runs Grimdark Magazine and loves anything to do with telling darker stories. Doesn't matter the format, or when it was published or produced--just give him a grim story told in a dark world by a morally grey protagonist and this bloke's in his happy place. Add in a barrel aged stout to sip on after a cheeky body surf under the Australian sun, and that's his heaven.

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Octavia E. Butler

Kindred Paperback – January 1, 2003

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  • Print length 288 pages
  • Language English
  • Publisher Beacon Press
  • Publication date January 1, 2003
  • Grade level 9 - 12
  • Reading age 14 - 18 years
  • Dimensions 5.36 x 0.78 x 7.91 inches
  • ISBN-10 0807083690
  • ISBN-13 978-0807083697
  • Lexile measure 580L
  • See all details

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Octavia Butler, Kindred, black women authors, science fiction, afrofuturism, racism, slavery, sexism

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About the author, product details.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Beacon Press; 25th edition (January 1, 2003)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 288 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0807083690
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0807083697
  • Reading age ‏ : ‎ 14 - 18 years
  • Lexile measure ‏ : ‎ 580L
  • Grade level ‏ : ‎ 9 - 12
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 2.31 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.36 x 0.78 x 7.91 inches
  • #2 in Black & African American Science Fiction (Books)
  • #27 in Time Travel Fiction
  • #150 in Black & African American Women's Fiction (Books)

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Great Afro futuristic book for teen reader & aspiring writer

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An intriguing story of time travel to slave times.

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About the author

Octavia e. butler.

OCTAVIA E. BUTLER (1947–2006) was the renowned author of numerous ground-breaking novels, including Kindred, Wild Seed, and Parable of the Sower. Recipient of the Locus, Hugo and Nebula awards, and a PEN Lifetime Achievement Award for her body of work, in 1995 she became the first science- fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Fellowship ‘Genius Grant’. A pioneer of her genre, Octavia’s dystopian novels explore myriad themes of Black injustice, women’s rights, global warming and political disparity, and her work is taught in over two hundred colleges and universities nationwide.

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'Kindred' Review: Octavia E. Butler's Novel Deserves Better Than This

You'd be better served by reading the book on which the series is based since little in this retelling is able to capture its enduring impact.

It is hard to fully call Kindred , a new series from FX , an adaptation of the late Hugo Award-winner Octavia E. Butler ’s 1979 novel of the same name. There is the same general premise in telling the story of a Black woman, Mallori Johnson 's Dana, who finds herself being unexpectedly pulled back through time to a pre-Civil War plantation. However, from a narrative and thematic perspective, there are a series of significant changes that fundamentally alter and increasingly compromise the many rich complexities of her story. While all works of adaptation make modifications, the ones being undertaken here all feel perfunctory at best and purposeless at worst. Though the committed performance by Johnson is a high point and the early direction by Janicza Bravo draws you in, each is ultimately let down by a story that can’t ever hope to even hold a candle to what Butler achieved all those years ago.

The first of many changes comes down to timing. Where the novel is set in 1976 and wastes no time in establishing the stakes of what is happening, the series begins in a vastly different fashion in the modern day. While not entirely surprising, as many adaptations feel a need to be more immediate, this focus on the present doesn’t ever provide much of anything new. It is here that we find Dana in the aftermath of one of her many jumps through time. She is grievously injured and lying on the floor, alone in a new home that we will learn she only recently bought. Soon, police lights flash outside as she tries to send an email though is hindered by spotty Wi-Fi. A nosy neighbor looks in through the window and officers then attempt to forcibly get inside despite Dana telling them she is fine. Of course, they don't listen.

While this opening and much of the first episode are well-directed by Bravo, it is only the beginning of the series telling a vastly different story that lacks the same incisiveness as Butler’s original work. We then flash forward to see Dana laughing and watching television on the same laptop she remains blissfully unaware will be her lifeline in the looming crisis. While she had cried out for help before, she is now alone and unconcerned before rushing off to a dinner she had forgotten. Dana has only recently moved back to Los Angeles and hopes to break into writing for television; it is a change she is quite excited about.

The dinner she then goes to is meant to be a happy one where she updates her aunt Denise ( Eisa Davis ) on all of these significant life changes. However, Denise’s husband Alan ( Charles Parnell ) soon voices his disapproval of her life decisions and things deteriorate from there. It is tense, but the two are all the family that Dana has left as she previously lost both of her parents. When she then tries to leave, Dana encounters Kevin ( Micah Stock ) who works there as a waiter. A white man who was her husband when we first encountered him in the book is made a stranger in this adaptation. Still, Dana accepts his offer for a ride home as her phone is dead, and she can’t call a ride service. Later that evening, she matches with him on this universe’s equivalent of Tinder where he begins sending her corny messages.

RELATED: New 'Kindred' Trailer Travels Through Time to Reveal Sinister Secrets

The two then begin an often awkward flirtation that lacks the same complicated history that was felt in the novel. It is in the midst of this that they get swept up in the perilous predicament of being taken back through time without warning. The only thing that seems to cause this occurrence is a young white child named Rufus Weylin ( David Alexander Kaplan ) facing down danger. Be it when he is a baby almost suffocating in his crib or nearly drowning a few years later, in each instance Dana comes back in the midst of his suffering. The only person who sees this happen is Kevin who will subsequently also be taken back with her through time. It is there where days can pass that will only be hours in the present that they were ripped away from. They must then play along in order to survive.

When both are taken into the past is where the series starts to really stumble. The primary cause of this is that, in the eight-episode first season, only about one hundred pages of the novel are covered. While some of this is part of how there are new storylines introduced, it also feels like the strong foundation of the story has been stretched to a breaking point. There is none of the same interiority and care that Butler gave to her characters while still seeing the world through Dana’s eyes. It remains a work that is both more focused and more human than anything playing out here. The canvas on which the story plays out is far more scattered, making it so that many of the more striking details get lost.

Where the book was written in first-person, the show bounces around to other characters in the past and present even when Dana is not there. In the past, there is much more time spent with Kevin as he bumbles his way through the rules that govern the plantation while being immune from much of any risk as a white man. He still manages to find ways to mess things up, including when he references a Jane Austen book he should not have known about, something played for laughs but just feels out of place. The series still reflects the same themes of how Butler would show Kevin's ignorance of the realities of what Dana faces each day, though it lacks the same meaning when this is a man that she has just barely met a few days prior.

That this series is written to have them being such strangers to each other robs the story of its sharper observations. In the novel, there is a more unsettling undercurrent as Dana often fears that Kevin, the man she still loves and knows deeply, could become someone that she will have to fear just as much as the other white people running the plantation. It creates a more nuanced portrait of evil where those doing harm are monstrous though all-too-human in their cruelty. All of this is lost in the series which portrays him as being a well-meaning, flatly amicable guy without any greater nuance or wrinkles to his character. This isn’t the fault of Stock; rather, it is the way in which his character and the story are written.

There is no greater investment to be had in the romantic relationship between Kevin and Dana when it is made so simplistic. All the ways that Butler sought to explore gender, race, and power through the lens of a time travel narrative are largely abandoned for a far more standard story woefully devoid of depth. It instead focuses primarily on Dana trying to piece together what to do about an existing familial connection she has to the plantation that is different from the one that she has in the book. This addition is interesting in theory, with a couple of more complicated conversations that prove to be compelling, though it all gets drowned out in the rest of the still superficial story. It ends up seeking to include more going on, only to end up saying something with far less meaning. The series just keeps straying farther and farther from Butler’s more multifaceted work until there is only a tenuous sense this is her story at all.

This all amounts to what feels like a missed opportunity most of all. While watching the Kindred series, some of the passages that keep bouncing around from the novel pertain to the nature of television itself. At a couple of different moments early on, Butler establishes how Dana is processing what she was seeing and experiencing and how it differs so drastically from what she has seen on television. All the real violence feels more present than any on-screen representation ever could. The Dana of this story is an aspiring television writer, another difference from the novel, which could have set up a potential narrative that grappled with some of these ideas in a new way. Instead, the greatest detriment of the series is that it feels more like the shows that Butler called attention to in her writing. Where the novel had texture to the characters and world, this adaptation just goes through far more conventional motions. It loses sight of the perspective, power, and poetry of Butler’s original story for one that is far more thematically thin without adding anything new.

All of its best ideas we earn glimpses of are those that are left over from the source material. Even when the performances and direction try to reach for something more, it always just ends up falling short through its own lackluster construction. The one saving grace is that it may get more people to revisit Butler’s book, but this is hardly praising what this adaptation has done in its opening season. Though there is a possibility for Kindred to explore more in a second season, as there is still plenty of the book ahead, if it continues to frame the story in the same way then it will continue to run into many of the same problems. By the time it all comes to an oddly open-ended conclusion, what remains clear is that the most meaningful parts of the series are those that were already done better and with more care in Butler’s hands.

You can watch all eight episodes of Kindred Season 1 on Hulu starting December 13.

  • Entertainment
  • FX’s <i>Kindred</i> Is a Solid, Long Overdue Adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s Masterpiece

FX’s Kindred Is a Solid, Long Overdue Adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s Masterpiece

“KINDRED” --  "Sabina" -- Season 1, Episode 2 (Airs December 13) Pictured (L-R): Micah Stock as Kevin Franklin, Mallori Johnson as Dana James.  CR: Tina Rowden/FX

I t is absolutely wild that it has taken nearly half a century for Octavia E. Butler ’s 1979 novel Kindred to be adapted for the screen. Written in Butler’s propulsive, dialogue-heavy style and constructed out of elements—slavery narratives, time travel—that often fuel both prestige drama and genre franchises, the book cries out to be translated into a visual medium. And the same simple, poetic premise that has made it a classic of speculative literature all but guarantees the success of any competent adaptation: Dana, a young Black woman in mid-’70s California, is suddenly pulled back in time to a Maryland plantation in 1819 to save a little white boy from drowning. While her initial disappearance is over in minutes, she’s summoned back, for longer and longer periods, every time the impulsive child puts himself in mortal danger. Eventually, her new, white husband unwittingly accompanies her into the past, where their marriage is illegal.

In an eight-episode first season that will stream in its entirety on Hulu beginning Dec. 13, FX’s long-awaited Kindred doesn’t quite dazzle in the same way that the very best recent novel-to-TV adaptations have done. Shows like last year’s The Underground Railroad (which has Kindred encoded in its DNA) and Station Eleven expanded upon brilliant source material with brilliant audio, visual, and storytelling choices tailored to the small screen. But this series does, for the most part, do justice to the metaphor at the center of Butler’s masterpiece. That’s another way of saying that you shouldn’t miss it.

“KINDRED” --  "Winnie" -- Season 1, Episode 5 (Airs December 13) Pictured (L-R): Mallori Johnson as Dana, Austin Smith as Luke.  CR: Richard Ducree/FX

Writer and showrunner Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, a relative newcomer to TV whose previous work as a playwright has earned him a MacArthur “Genius Grant” and made him a Pulitzer finalist, is faithful to the spirit but not the letter of the novel. Working with a team of executive producers that includes The Americans duo Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields as well as filmmaker Darren Aronofsky , he’s wise to update the present-day story to 2022; while the book took place in the bicentennial year of 1976, what’s more salient in this adaptation is how contemporary Kindred still feels, two generations later. In this telling, 26-year-old Dana (recent Juilliard grad Mallori Johnson, with what should by all rights be a career-making performance) is a single aspiring TV writer who has just sold the family brownstone in Brooklyn following the death of her grandmother and bought a house of her own in Los Angeles.

Jacobs-Jenkins makes it hard, at first, to figure out what kind of story the show is telling. The outstanding premiere, directed by Janicza Bravo ( Zola ), moves deftly between genres and moods. It opens on a chilling, flash-forward vignette. We see Dana lying on the floor of her darkened home, wearing only underwear and a bloody tank top, crying out for someone named Kevin. She collects knives from the kitchen, runs a bath and salts the water, gets in the tub without undressing. The cops show up and demand to check on her. It sounds like they’re about to break down the door. Watching the nightmare escalate, you’ll likely wonder if this woman has lost her mind. She hasn’t—and the scenes that follow might lead some viewers to consider whether they’re especially quick to mistake trauma for derangement when the afflicted is Black and female.

Then we meet the smart, charming if unmoored Dana of two days earlier. At dinner with her kind aunt (Eisa Davis) and cranky uncle (Charles Parnell), who are now her only living relatives, she announces that she’s moved to their city permanently and is surprised to find they disapprove of her choice to uproot herself and chase a dream. The meal goes so poorly that she refuses a ride home and ends up in the car with their waiter, Kevin (Micah Stock giving Jake Johnson). So begins the rom-com portion of the program. Almost a decade Dana’s senior, Kevin (who shares a name with Dana’s husband in the novel) is a washed-up indie rocker whose warmth compensates for his music snobbery and tendency to monologue about himself. Gazing out at L.A. from a scenic overlook, they learn that they both lost their parents as kids. When she offers to reimburse him for gas because he’s spent all day driving her around, Kevin protests: “We’re in the orphan club together now. Orphans don’t pay orphans. They barter. With trauma.”

“KINDRED” --  "Dana" -- Season 1, Episode 1 (Airs December 13)  Pictured (L-R): Micah Stock as Kevin Franklin, Mallori Johnson as Dana James.  CR: Tina Rowden/FX

Neither realizes that they’re on the brink of an experience that will make the considerable hardships they’ve already suffered look trivial. This is what makes the initial genre confusion so effective; Dana doesn’t know what kind of story she’s at the center of, either, when she starts traveling back to the early 19th century to save young Rufus (David Alexander Kaplan) from himself. The choice feels true to Butler’s unique novel, too, which is sometimes classified as sci-fi but was considered by its author to be a “ grim fantasy ” and contains all the thematic depth of great literary fiction. For me, Kindred —with its real-world backdrop, fantastical premise, and potent political commentary—comes closest to the brutal beauty of the best Latin American magic realism, which is another reason why it might’ve benefited from more imaginative soundscapes, production design, and cinematography, particularly later in the season.

Still, in moving between the present and the antebellum past, where Dana and later Kevin can only survive by adhering to the norms of Rufus’ parents’ ( True Blood alum Ryan Kwanten and GLOW ’s Gayle Rankin) plantation, Jacobs-Jenkins unearths layers of meaning so elegantly embedded in Butler’s narrative. The big picture is of a nation that, almost 250 years into its existence as such, remains so scarred by the legacy of slavery that it’s always falling through metaphorical trap doors into a violent white-supremacist past. But it’s the details that give Kindred its nuance. Dana’s connection to Rufus invokes the complex history of who Black Americans’ ancestors really were. Among the enslaved characters, there are questions about complicity, rebellion, survival, internecine conflicts—and whether a well-intentioned Black woman from the 21st century can truly know how to help her 19th-century counterparts.

“KINDRED” --  "Winnie" -- Season 1, Episode 5 (Airs December 13) Pictured (L-R): Gayle Rankin as Margaret Weylin, Ryan Kwanten as Thomas Weylin.  CR: Richard Ducree/FX

The show alters Dana and Kevin’s relationship in a way that keeps the focus on her, yet like the novel, it identifies a possibly unbridgeable gulf between a Black woman and a white man who otherwise have a lot in common. Can she love him after enduring the horrors that white men (and to an only slightly lesser extent, white women) inflicted on Black women firsthand? Can he live as a pampered guest in Rufus’ home, with Dana posing as his slave, without internalizing a toxic quantity of entitlement? Will these two ever truly be able to understand each other?

Despite the odd overly broad character (see: Dana’s new next-door neighbor, a prototypical Karen) or stiff line of period dialogue (“This rogue would protect his property before my daughter’s honor!”), the writing is solid. Jacobs-Jenkins’ most salient additions to Butler’s narrative are story lines about Dana’s family that seamlessly extend the time-travel allegory. There are plenty of promising places left for the show to go in the event that FX gives it a second season to follow up on the finale’s assorted cliffhangers.

But when Kindred really achieves excellence, it’s usually through Johnson’s extraordinary performance. As a woman adrift in young adulthood and unstuck in American history, she conveys the extremely specific double consciousness of a modern Black woman who must try to bend the antebellum world to her will. From the most harrowing punishments (which the show dramatizes sparingly and, to its great credit, never gratuitously) to Dana’s blissful early hours with Kevin, but most of all in quiet moments when the character is clearly thinking or feeling something she can’t safely articulate, Johnson conjures an entire topsy-turvy universe within a single consciousness. Belated as it is, no tribute to the work of Octavia E. Butler could be more apt.

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The entrance to the Shanidar cave in the Bradost mountains of Kurdistan, Iraq, where the remains of 10 Neanderthals were unearthed.

Kindred by Rebecca Wragg Sykes review – a new understanding of humanity

In this impressive reassessment Neanderthals emerge as complex, clever and caring, with a lot to tell us about human life

H omo sapiens’ relationship with our long-lost relatives the Neanderthals has undergone a lot of rethinking since our relatively recent reintroduction in 1856. Until then, three years before Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species , we had no idea that they existed. Thanks to the Parisian anatomist Marcellin Boule, who “inaccurately reconstructed” a skeleton in 1909, the popular image of them has been of an ugly creature with a stooped spine and a “decidedly ape-like” appearance. Now, a blink of an eye later, we know that many of us – at least, those without sub-Saharan heritage – carry between 1.8 and 2.6% Neanderthal DNA. So it’s reassuring to read that these people whose genes we share were not the brutish caricatures of Victorian myth, but complex, clever and probably caring individuals with a lot to tell us about human life.

Rebecca Wragg Sykes has studied their landscapes, territories and tools and emerges as an expert and enthusiastic character witness for Neanderthals and their way of life. In Kindred she looks at their “life, love, death and art”; and in the light of the fascinating evidence that is painstakingly presented here it seems likely that they had sophisticated tools, built home environments, art and ornamentation, family structures and possibly even “a richer culinary world than ours”. There is even evidence that they tidied up. Neanderthals probably didn’t have PR, but they do now.

Neanderthals became a distinct population 450,000 to 400,000 thousand years ago, and lived all over the world from north Wales to China and Arabia, in climates ranging from glacial to tropical, until about 40,000 years ago. They were shorter than we are, with strong arms for working hides and fine motor skills for making small tools, but probably saw, heard, smelled and possibly even spoke much like we do. With a sketch and a short piece of fiction at the start of each chapter, Wragg Sykes paints a vivid picture of life as lived by a Neanderthal parent, hunter or child. She doesn’t just want us to see Neanderthals for who they (probably) really were; she wants us to see their world through their eyes.

A reconstruction of a Neanderthal, created for the Natural History Museum, London.

The prose is a combination of the scholarly and the writerly, combining dizzying amounts of information about different types of stones, tools, bladelets and flakes with sentences such as “Squabbling crossbills and crested tits yielded to crass jays and mellifluous nightingales, until cold mornings saw clattering capercaillies sending breathy vapour into biting air.” The knowledge condensed here is certainly impressive. “The sheer amount of information is hard to process,” Wragg Sykes writes. “Few specialists have time to read every fresh article in their own sub-field, never mind the total scholarly output.” She describes, for example, how archaeologists refit tiny fragments of knapped artefacts back together like “an immense 4D jigsaw puzzle” to see how Neanderthals worked stone tools; what isotopes in dental calculus tell us about their diet and smoky fires; and how microanalysis of soil samples suggests careful placing – if not technically “burial” – of the dead. It’s clearly a subject that encourages and repays obsessive interest.

Understanding Neanderthals’ place in history is important to show “how evolution didn’t follow an arrow-straight Hominin Highway leading to ourselves”, and to skewer white supremacist notions that sprang up around our early (mis)understanding of who different types of humans were. It is hard, though, not to draw some warnings for humanity from the fate of our near kin. Did Homo sapiens only thrive because of our larger and stronger social networks – “being welcome at the fires of friends many valleys away” when things got tough? Did Neanderthal populations collapse after one climate change event too many, and how might we survive our own? Or might they have been killed off by “a terrible contagion” that jumped between species? Sadly, we don’t know, though the next discovery may be the one to tell us. Until then, Wragg Sykes concludes, Neanderthals will continue to function as “the shadow in the mirror … a multispectral reflection of our hopes and fears, not only for their apparent fate, but our own”.

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Book Review: Emil Ferris tackles big issues through a small child with a monster obsession

This cover image released by Fantagraphics Books shows "My Favorite Thing is Monsters, Book 2" by Emil Ferris. (Fantagraphics Books via AP)

This cover image released by Fantagraphics Books shows “My Favorite Thing is Monsters, Book 2" by Emil Ferris. (Fantagraphics Books via AP)

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book reviews kindred

There are two types of monsters: Ones that simply appear scary and ones that are scary by their cruelty. Karen Reyes is the former, but what does that make her troubled older brother, Deeze?

Emil Ferris has finally followed up on her visually stunning, 2017 debut graphic novel with its concluding half, “My Favorite Thing Is Monsters Book 2.” It picks up right where Book 1 left off (spoilers for Book 1 … now), with 10-year-old Karen in a fever dream as she processes her mother’s death from cancer and the revelation that she had another brother named Victor before his twin Deeze killed him.

For the uninitiated, the story is essentially Karen’s diary as she dons a detective hat and oversized coat to solve mysteries — like who killed the upstairs neighbor and where her emaciated classmate disappeared to — in 1968 Chicago , featuring historical events like the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination and Vietnam War protests. Karen, a monster-loving Catholic school student who identifies more with werewolves than with girls, sketches her experiences in lined notebooks. She has an astounding ability to capture people — a technically skilled artist who also sees through her subjects and depicts their nature alongside their features. And she’s gay, something her beloved Mama definitely did not approve of and which she must now reconcile with the society she lives in.

“Monsters” may be narrated by a kid, but it is definitely an adult book with adult language and themes. Ferris raises complicated issues ranging from the patriarchy’s role in homophobia and America’s role in eugenics to the merits of capitalism, socialism and communism. Along with why school sucks.

This cover image released by Viking shows "First Frost" by Craig Johnson. (Viking via AP)

And I cannot give Ferris enough accolades for acknowledging the depth of children, who often see and understand more than most adults want to admit.

Ferris revels in gray areas and often calls taboos and moral lines into question, using Karen’s elementary-age perspective as an opportunity to see people not as their profession, race or sexuality, but as people — or, in any case, monsters, but equalizing regardless.

Although Book 2 has an introduction and brief callbacks to remind readers who’s who and what happened, it’s really best to read or reread Book 1 first. There are tons of characters at play and it’s a multi-faceted story that requires deep reading. The recaps are decent reminders, but they can’t possibly capture the nuance from Book 1 in just a page or two.

If Book 2 seems almost too familiar, that’s because it follows the same basic plot arc as Book 1, even down to starting and ending with wild dreams. But unlike its prequel, the plot jumps around with considerably more frequency and suddenness. Ferris leans on her readers to read between the lines and apply the same techniques for viewing her art that her characters use when they visit the Art Institute of Chicago .

“Monsters” is an incredible feat of both storytelling and artistic achievement that makes for a brag-worthy coffee table art book, as well as a compelling story with a seriously intense moral and philosophical workout. Ferris is a must-have for any comic-lover’s collection.

AP book reviews:


Beach house, check. Family drama, check. ‘Sandwich’ is that summer book.

Catherine Newman’s new novel is a relatable tale of a woman caught between the needs of her kids, her parents — and herself.

The sandwich Catherine Newman serves up in her new novel, “ Sandwich ,” is a classic one: grown kids on one side, aging parents on the other and 54-year-old narrator Rachel, a.k.a. “Rocky,” in the middle. As they do every year, three generations of Rocky’s family have decamped to Cape Cod for a week, a gathering made all the more special since son, Jamie, and daughter, Willa, no longer live at home, and their grandparents are becoming quite frail.

Newman’s last novel, the very moving “We All Want Impossible Things,” was a paean to friendship. Her new book practically glows with family feeling — “I’m drowning in love,” says Rocky at one point. “Sandwich” has much in common with Ann Patchett’s “Tom Lake,” though Patchett’s novel doesn’t have an older generation, a key element here.

The laughter begins on the first page, where we learn that Rocky is “long married to a beautiful man who understands between twenty and sixty-five percent of everything she says” — and the great lines and witty observations never stop. Many of them arise from the indignities of aging and menopause, which has left no part of Rocky’s physical and emotional being untouched.

“My hair! What on earth? It used to hang down in heavy, glossy waves, and now it sticks out of my head like a marshful of brittle autumn grasses. It is simultaneously coarse and weightless in a way that seems like an actual paradox, as if my scalp is extruding a combination of twine, nothing, and fine-grit sandpaper.”

Newman is fearless in her depiction of the physical and emotional indignities of getting older. Rocky’s fits of irrational rage often manifest in her relationship with her calm and kind husband, Nick. A typical moment occurs when the couple is in line at the bakery and Rocky gets mad at Nicky because he doesn’t know which pastry Rocky would choose. When she insists that in nearly 30 years she has never once chosen sweets for breakfast, he reminds her about the almond croissants she ordered in Paris. She grudgingly concedes his point but remains angry. The poor man realizes there is no course but apology. “I’m sorry I don’t know you better. In the bakery sense.”

As it turns out, there is more than baked goods involved, though it’s Rocky’s fault for having kept an important secret for many years. The week in Cape Cod probably wasn’t going to be all sunshine and rainbows, but Rocky’s miserable perseverating over something in her distant reproductive past feels a little out of place. Perhaps this is also occasioned by menopause, representing as it does the close of a chapter of life, but to this reader the whole thing felt a bit cooked-up.

Summer reading

book reviews kindred

The other stone in the shoe of the gentle plot is concern for the health of Rocky’s parents, which makes more sense. The depiction of Mort and Alice, their dialogue, their posture, their sleeping white heads on the pillow, their humor, is endearing. When Mom has a fainting spell at the beach and ends up briefly in the hospital, Rocky wonders if they’ll stay an extra day. “But my parents have a strict two-night policy. If they traveled sixty million miles to visit you on Mars, they’d bring Zabar’s whitefish salad in a cooler bag and they’d stay two nights.”

The abundance of love flourishing in Rocky’s family is refreshing and inspiring, but Newman is not afraid to go to the dark side of it. There was a time, Rocky recalls, when her children were small and she was half-mad with exhaustion and anxiety, and she ruminated on stories about women driving themselves and their children off cliffs or into oncoming traffic. “I thought, ruinedly, Yeah. I get that .” She wouldn’t have done it, she says, but understood why someone might. And then she continues, “I hope I wouldn’t have. I’m honestly not entirely sure.”

I imagine some readers will feel a little shock of gratitude upon reading this passage, and even more will embrace Rocky’s view of the meaning of life. At one point, she and Willa are in the laundromat when a child begins to cry because her beloved (smelly) snail shell has been taken away. After Willa calms her down, expressing empathy about having to abandon the dubious treasure, Rocky suggests this takeaway:

“And this may be the only reason we were put on this earth. To say to each other , I know how you feel. To say, Same. To say, I understand how hard it is to be a parent, a kid. To say, Your shell stank and you’re sad. I’ve been there.”

Marion Winik, host of the NPR podcast “The Weekly Reader,” is the author of numerous books, including “First Comes Love” and “The Big Book of the Dead.”

By Catherine Newman

Harper. 240 pp. $26.99

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book reviews kindred


Do You Know the Manhattan Locations of These Children’s Books?

By J. D. Biersdorfer May 28, 2024

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An illustration of a child-like figure reading a book and sitting in the bite of a big red apple.

A strong sense of place can deeply influence a story, and in some cases, the setting can even feel like a character itself. As shown in classic works like E.B. White’s “Stuart Little” and Kay Thompson’s “Eloise,” Manhattan is a popular location for children’s books and this week’s literary geography quiz celebrates several more stories set around the borough.

To play, just make your selection in the multiple-choice list and the correct answer will be revealed. Links to the books will be listed at the end of the quiz if you’d like to do further reading.

Hildegarde H. Swift’s 1942 book “The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge” is based on two real structures that still exist today. Which of Manhattan’s bridges is next to the lighthouse?

Macombs Dam Bridge

George Washington Bridge

Manhattan Bridge

59th Street Bridge/Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge

“Tar Beach,” Faith Ringgold’s 1991 picture book, follows the dreams of young Cassie Louise Lightfoot up on the roof of her family’s apartment building. They live in a historic neighborhood just north of Central Park that’s known for its music, literature and culture. Where is Cassie’s home located?

Washington Heights

West Village

Times Square

Both Louise Fitzhugh’s “Harriet the Spy” and Bernard Waber’s “Lyle the Crocodile” series of books are set in the same neighborhood, which is known for its proximity to museums and the mayor’s residence. Which neighborhood is it?

Upper West Side

Upper East Side / Yorkville

Gramercy Park

William Low’s 1997 book explores the colorful world of this Manhattan neighborhood that uses Canal Street as one of its main thoroughfares — and extends south to Pell, Doyers, Mott and other streets. The book has the same name as the neighborhood. Which area is it?

E.L. Konigsburg’s 1967 children’s novel “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” tells the story of two Connecticut children who run away from home and hide in one of Manhattan’s big museums, where they try to solve a mystery. Which museum did the children use as their base of operations?

The American Museum of Natural History

The Museum of Modern Art

The New-York Historical Society

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Explore More in Books

Want to know about the best books to read and the latest news start here..

An assault led to Chanel Miller’s best seller, “Know My Name,” but she had wanted to write children’s books since the second grade. She’s done that now  with “Magnolia Wu Unfolds It All.”

When Reese Witherspoon is making selections for her book club , she wants books by women, with women at the center of the action who save themselves.

The Nobel Prize-winning author Alice Munro, who died on May 14 , specialized in exacting short stories that were novelistic in scope , spanning decades with intimacy and precision.

“The Light Eaters,” a new book by Zoë Schlanger, looks at how plants sense the world  and the agency they have in their own lives.

Each week, top authors and critics join the Book Review’s podcast to talk about the latest news in the literary world. Listen here .


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