I read this book as part of Life’s Library book club. The basic premise of the book is an answer to the question, “What if it was white people who were enslaved by black people?”. It was incredibly provocative and fascinating. I had heard a lot of what was referenced in the book, but to see it from this perspective was both eye-opening and heart-breaking.
The story opens on a slave, Doris, who is escaping from her master. During her escape, she has flashbacks to her original home, her kidnapping, and the journey so far. It wasn’t just her freedom taken from her, but her very humanity and worth. Towards the beginning of the book, she talks about how she has to look in the mirror, list her physical attributes (all things that are beautiful in our world), and convince herself that she is beautiful.
The book is divided into three “books” or parts. The second book is written from the slave owner’s perspective in a series of letters to the reader, as well as small narratives in between to give context. A lot of the techniques used in the book to justify slavery and the removal of the slaves humanity were familiar references to how slavery in America was justified and how slaves were scientifically removed of their humanity.
There was profanity throughout the book. Sexual content included talks of rape, the parts of the body that were beautiful, and talking about slaves like animals, thus treated that way. There is also violent content that included murders, beatings, and lynchings which were pretty detailed. What is really fascinating in this book is how all the characters find connection to each other in the end. The book leaves you with a sense of hope, but not a perfect world envisioned at the beginning of the book. Ultimately, no one really wins, which is truly heartbreaking. But you feel for the characters, as flawed but incredibly resilient human beings just trying to make their lives better. Definitely a good read, with the caveat of the heavy subject matter.