This story made me get a feel for slavery in the antebellum South of the United States in a way that nothing else has ever done before. It is an incredibly powerful tale, filled with expertly written tension.

I do not presume I would ever be able to understand what it feels like to live through enslavement. And neither does the main character, Dana, a black woman married to her white husband Kevin. But after feeling dizzy and passing out, she finds herself transported from 1976 to 1819. She learns that she's called back anytime Rufus, the son of a plantation owner, is in life-threatening danger. And slowly, she starts to piece together that Rufus is her ancestor; her great-great-grandmother would be the daughter of Rufus and a free black girl called Alice. Dana saves the boy by instinct, and later understands that it's crucial to protect her own ancestral line. She's transported back to her own time when she feels life-threatening danger herself.

Time passes more slowly in the past. Literally, apparently, as the passage of eight days in 1976 amounted to five years back in the nineteenth century.

Dana goes back and forth multiple times throughout this story. Watching and helping Rufus grow up.

But all throughout, she must live on the plantation. Though she isn't made to work the fields, and instead learns to cook and do all other tasks around the house, we as the reader slowly follow her own enslavement. Even Dana herself is surprised when she notices that an enslaved mindset crept up on her. She fears it. Where she couldn't understand the quiet resolve of other enslaved people in the beginning.

There are beatings, torture. Though it is never made to be sensational. It is presented as how many white people from that time must have felt about it; a tool and a lawful right to manage your plantation business. The book also manages to present the way people think about enslavement and the treatment of enslaved people in a powerfully nuanced way. Just like Dana, we feel vile and disgusted reading how casually white people in the story dismiss black people as something inhuman.

I am by far no expert on this subject matter. The depths of feelings this story made me experience is incredibly rich. But I cannot adequately write them into words. I found Wikipedia's section on the book's main themes very good.

The premise of the book is brilliant, in that it humanizes and grounds slaverly in the United States as something part of the direct ancestral lineage of so many people currently alive. There are truly only just a few generations between people currently alive and those we read about and feel for in Kindred. Writing from Anton de Kom helped me understand the brutal violence in all its naked horror. Kindred helped me get closer to understanding the psychology of enslavement and human relations in all their imperfect shapes and forms.

There is one more thing I wanted to note about the incredible tension that Octavia is able to write into the story. Its execution is something I'm not sure I've ever seen done so well. An aspect of it, is that she hides the tension in plain sight. She announces something in a single sentence, such that we vaguely know what is going to happen. Basically, that something will go wrong, sometimes writing it almost explicitly. But only in the next paragraphs will we slowly find out how exactly something will be going wrong.

It was impossible to put down this incredibly powerful story.