This book is intense
. More literary historical fiction than science fiction, it tells the story of Dana, a young black woman in an interracial marriage who is repeatedly sent back in time involuntarily to rescue one of her ancestors, Rufus. Her white, slave-owning, slave-raping
ancestor Rufus. He is really a despicable character, but Octavia E. Butler doesn't take the easy way out of painting him as a complete villain. Rather, she explores the nuanced issues of antebellum Southern society through Dana, an outsider, and it is fascinating to watch the relationship develop between Dana and Rufus. They hate each other, but they need each other. The issues in the novel may be about Blacks and Whites, but the people here are not black-and-white.
Since one of the major themes here is slavery, it should come as no surprise that there are some extremely brutal and violent sections. It's not for the faint of heart or those that dislike "depressing" books. Be prepared to grapple with some serious subjects.
It took me a little while to get into this book because the writing style is very exposition-heavy and I found it a bit stilted at first (excepting the 2-page prologue, which is gripping from the first line: "I lost an arm on my last trip home. My left arm.") The story is so unusual and interesting, however, that I kept reading to find out what would happen next and I was soon completely absorbed. This is a really unique novel; absolutely recommended.