The novel is often shelved under "Fiction - Literature". The main hook of the novel would place it under "Science Fiction", but the author herself describes it as a "Grim Fantasy". If Kindred wasn't written twenty five years ago I would say that it reminds me of The Time Traveler's Wife because of the nature of the story. But...in reality the Niffenegger book would reference this one.
Kindred is a masterpiece. I do not say this lightly. Dana is 26 years old and living in Maryland in the 1970's when she feels dizzy and finds herself alongside a river where she pulls out a young white boy and saves him from drowning. Then she is flung back to her house with her husband. She doesn't know what happened except that Kevin tells her that she just disappeared for a couple of seconds...except that she was gone for longer than three seconds and there is no explanation for the mud on her clothing. She is flung back again and again for longer periods of time. It turns out that Dana, a black woman, keeps getting sent back to the early 1800's to a southern slaveholding plantation to save the white son of the plantation owner (and slavemaster). There are also ties to her family involved as well.
Octavia Butler's grim fantasy is exactly that: grim. This is an astonishing novel but it is a brutal one. I have read former slave narratives written in the 1800's by former slaves and I have read some on the time period in both English and History classes. I've seen movies. But Octavia Butler brings home the brutality of the era and makes it uncomfortably real. Dana has to find a way to survive in an era and a location where her very presence marks her as a slave even though she is from the 1970's, long after the abolishment of American Slavery. It is through her eyes that we see just how wrong it is and just how easy it can be, too. How unthinking and how dangerous. Kindred left me stunned but I could not put the book down. This is a novel which would hold up well on second and third read throughs. I do not recommend many novels to people unless I can tailor the recommendation to the personal taste of the person. I would recommend Kindred to anyone.