Having just celebrated her 26th birthday in 1976 California, Dana, an African-American woman, is suddenly and inexplicably wrenched through time into antebellum Maryland. After saving a drowning white boy there, she finds herself staring into the barrel of a shotgun and is transported back to the present just in time to save her life. During numerous such time-defying episodes with the same young man, she realizes the challenge she’s been given: to protect this young slaveholder until he can father her own great-grandmother.
I have no idea how I’m going to do a review that completely explains how this book made me feel and a review that does this book justice. This book was great but also really hard to read and I never knew what was going to happen next.
First of all, the plot. We never find out why Dana has this power to travel back in time but she finds out why she is and the book comes to a conclusion about that (I did wonder how they were going to wrap it up). I never knew what was going to come next and it kept me reading, even as I wanted to flinch back from the reality disguised as fiction in the pages. The book did a fine balancing act between slavery and slave-owners and showing the kind of culture where you were assumed to be a slave simply due to your race, rather than assumed to be free. The injuries Dana received were brutal but highlighted just how the norm they were back then.
Every single character was compelling and even the ‘evil’ characters were shown as 3-D. Rufus’ and Dana’s relationship was fascinating and I think Butler did a splendid job of showcasing how the two of them meant a lot to each other, even as part of them despised the other for what they were. Dana’s feelings about Rufus, about how she cares for him and hates him at the same time, and how she watches him grow into the man he becomes were done really well. I never felt like there was a correct way for her to be feeling because it was such a confusing situation. Rufus loved Dana, Butler showed that well, but his love was a far more selfish thing (as he demonstrated on Alice) and he never quite grasped why his love was never returned. Kevin and Dana staying together partly because no one else would understand exactly what she had been through was heartbreaking and yet, completely understandable.
The ending was so bittersweet, but done so well. Nothing worked out perfectly but in that situation, I don’t think there was a perfect ending at all. Dana secured her great-grandmother’s future which was her goal, but she had lost part of herself along the way. I definitely recommend this book, though I would find it hard to read again, five stars!