Thursday, February 16, 2012

Cane River

I hadn't read any historical fiction in awhile so I figured I might as well branch out just a bit with this read. Cane River by Lalita Tademy was recommended on a book blog I read. Apparently, it was also an Oprah's Book Club choice back in the day, according to the cover picture that I found.

It begins in pre-Civil War Louisiana following one French Creole family along the Cane River for the next 100+ years from slavery through freedom. It spans four generations of strong, African American women as they try to survive and care for their children and each other. It begins with Elisabeth and her daughter, a teenager at the time, Suzette. Suzette gives birth to Philomene after having been raped by a white slave owner, a very sad and common occurence. Eventually, as Philomene becomes of age, she gives birth to Emily, who chooses to marry a white man as the laws change. Because all these women gave birth as teenagers, they're also all living and growing at the same time. In the beginning, they're trying to stay together as their owners' financial situations are in turmoil and some of their family are sold off to be slaves elsewhere. Later, children with white fathers try to gain their due respect and use their fairer skin to their advantage.

Cane River tells a lot of sadness as families are torn apart and disease sweeps their quarters. These four women remain strong and teach each other much about life and survival with the changing times. I enjoyed this read. Tademy did extensive research on her family's history and printed copies of documents she found from those times about the sale of slaves, letter written to one another and the few pictures they had. Tademy writes beautifully of her lineage giving formidable character to each voice. Give this a shot if you're looking for something different.

Rating: * * * 1/2

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