, Octavia Butler.
Okay, I am about the fiftieth person to read this book in this community, and the sixth or seventh to post about it TODAY. Which makes me feel as if an in-depth review would be... unnecessary? Redundant? I will, nonetheless, try to write briefly about what I myself took away from it.
A brief summary: Dana, who is black, is a feminist and a writer. It is 1976, and she has just moved with her husband of not-very-long, Kevin (who is white), to a their first house together in Los Angeles. By mechanisms unknown to her, she finds herself unwillingly pulled back into the past, for the presumable purpose -- she quickly figures out -- of saving Rufus, a young white boy who will become the master of his father's Maryland plantation, and keeping him alive long enough to father the child who will become Dana's ancestor. But that means Dana has to live -- and try to keep her body, integrity, and sense of self intact, in a society in which blacks are property, women are treated like children, and she has no legal or personal rights at all.
Butler calls this book a "grim fantasy," which seems correct, in that it's certainly not science fiction. The mechanism of time travel is not really important here; what matters are its consequences. I find Butler's writing very immediate, and although she is not a particularly lyrical or elegant stylist, her calm, tough, clear prose works very well to keep the story moving, to illuminate character and to draw the reader into the questions she is most interested in addressing: those of assumptions; of ambiguous ethical questions; of painful choices which genuinely -- unlike in most fiction -- have no obvious right answer.
A couple of interesting, and illuminating, quotes from the book's Wikipedia page:
"I was trying to get people to feel slavery," Butler said in a 2004 interview. "I was trying to get across the kind of emotional and psychological stones that slavery threw at people." In another interview, she said, "I think people really need to think what it's like to have all of society arrayed against you."
The book is set on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Butler said she chose the setting "because I wanted my character to have a legitimate hope of escape," and because two famous African-Americans, Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, had been enslaved there.