The book begins in Philadelphia during a streetcar strike in 1910 with a newspaper clipping about a streetcar being driven by a black man into a department store. Then we go with his mother, Spring, to the hospital where she sits by Edward’s bed, determined to tell him about himself and about her struggle to survive as a slave. Accompanied by the ghost of her sister, she begins by telling him a story that spans several generations. It begins with a free black 12-year-old girl who was kidnapped in 1843 and taken to a Maryland farm to be a “breeder”. The account that follows is difficult to read as the violence and brutalities are told with detail. I read this book because it is longlisted for the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction. It is a story that needs to be told, a telling of women’s trials as slaves and as free, but at times it is evident that this is a debut for the author. I tended to lose characters in the narrative, sometimes the plot twists are telegraphed. Over all, It just felt a bit uneven.
eGalley review Publication date 2.4.2020
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