Red River by Lalita Tademy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I really enjoy historical fiction, and this book was no different. It is a sometimes-inseparable mix of factual history and embellishment and injection of the author's family stories passed down from generation to generation. What is most commonly known as the "Colfax riots" during the Restoration period in the South in the late 1800s was really a massacre of hundreds of black men and several white sympathizers, men who believed that each man should have the right to vote and own property. The White League in the book gives rise to the KKK, and while I don't know if this is factual or fictional, I assume the former, but cannot state it as fact without doing some research.
While it took me a while to get into the book, I definitely enjoyed it and hope to read Lalita Tademy's first novel, Cane River, which was on the New York Times Bestseller list and has been an Oprah Book Club selection (though I put hardly any stock in the second acclimation, truth be told). The authentic voice and dialogue help bring the characters to life, never seeming contrived. The love and respect Tademy has for her ancestors is evident, but at no time did the characters feel as though they'd been overly hyped. Images of actual historical documents and photos are interspersed among the pages of the novel, and it's easy to get lost in the expressions of the pictures and relate them to the descriptions of character, easy to see the years of hard work and tribulation reflected in the faces of these stoic men and women.
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