Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Cane River by Lalita Tademy

This is the story a family of women (and men) who grew up along Cane River, Louisiana in the 1800's to the mid 1900's. It starts out with Elisabeth and her daughter Suzette. They are slaves working on the Rosedew plantation. We first get the story of Suzette. How she came to have children and what happened as the plantation was sold and most of her family was scattered among other plantations. Then we get Philomene's story. She is Suzettes daughter and she is determined to rise about the common issues with being slaves and make sure her children, by a white man, are taken care of. Then we get Emily's story. Emily is Philomene's child and could probably pass for white.
This is their story. It is how they survived slavery, the civil war, and then being free but still not really knowing what freedom is.

What makes this story so great is because it's believable. You know these things happened all the time in the 1800's. Also, this is the author’s family. She did extensive research on her family history and ended up writing a fiction book based on her ancestors.

As the author says in the back of the book: Cane River covers 137 years of my family's history, written as fiction, but deeply rooted in years of research, historical fact, and family lore. In piecing together events from personal and public sources, especially when they conflicted, I relied on my own intuition. There were gaps I filed in based on research of the events and mood of the place and time. I presupposed motivations. Occasionally I changed a name, date or circumstance to accommodate narrative flow. I tried to capture the essence of truth, if not always the precise fact, and trust that the liberties I have taken will be forgiving.

What a wonderful book - based on her own ancestry - using as much fact as she can, but weaving a story that is probably very close to what happened.

I admit that at first it took me some time to get into it. I think it was hard for me because I wanted to read it like a non-fiction book but couldn't, because it's really fiction. Plus, sometimes on the same page we jump 2 or 10 years. Once I got used to it and just told myself, it's fiction based on real events, I was ok. I really enjoyed this story. She has another book out, a sequel if you will, titled Red River. You all know I'll be picking that book up at some point.

new author/fiction/522 pgs


Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I loved this book! So much so that I bought a few extra copies to share.

I can hardly wait to get my hands on Red River, her second book. But I need to catch up on what's here, first.

Joy said...

I have this in my TBR pile. Thanks for the encouragement. :)

She Became a Butterfly said...

i just joined the tbr challenge, and i thought i'd check out your blog.

my friend and i just started a book lovers message board, so i thought i'd invite you!!