Fri 3 Apr 2009
Tananarive Due (accent on the second syllable) is married to Steven Barnes, also a novelist. Formerly a columnist for the Miami Herald, she used to live in Miami, and now lives in Glendora, CA. She received a B.S. in journalism from Northwestern (a very fine journalism school) and an M.A. in Literature, specializing in Nigerian literature, from the University of Leeds (in England). She writes primarily in a supernatural/speculative fiction genre, but she has also written a historical novel and a work of non-fiction about the civil rights movement (of which her mother was a part). She also contributed to Naked Came the Manatee, a humorous mystery novel written by a group of Miami authors some years ago.
This is a sequel, and although I never read the first book, I’m cutting the plot discussion anyway. The Living Blood centers around two children, Fana and Jared, and their parents and families. Fana’s mother is Jessica Jacobs-Wolde, who is apparently infamous in Miami for having been married to David Wolde, the serial killer. He killed several people, but most notably their older daughter, Kira. Fana was conceived but not yet born at the time, and she is showing some strange abilities. Jared is the son of Dr. Lucas Shepherd, a microbiologist who has been studying alternative medicine for a number of years. Jared is dying of leukemia, and his father will do anything to find a cure. After Kira’s death, Jessica and her sister Alice moved to Africa, to start a clinic for children in the middle of a non-developed area. They apparently have some sort of miracle cure out there, and Lucas will do anything to get it.
Apparently this is a sequel to My Soul to Keep, but I didn’t know that prior to about a minute ago as the book didn’t indicate it in any way. I didn’t even have the feeling that there was an incredible amount of backstory, but apparently there was. Readers who read The Living Blood first will unfortunately have the entire plot of My Soul to Keep spoiled for them. I still wouldn’t mind reading it, as it might be interesting to watch the story unfold even though I know the ending. Also, of course, I very much enjoyed Ms. Due’s writing and characters, and it would be quite interesting to re-enter the world, if a bit backwards.
Jessica is an interesting character; she deals with her de facto immortality fairly well, but her daughter Fana unsettles her a bit. (And by ‘a bit,’ I mean ‘a lot.’) Fana was born laughing, which is strange enough as it is but a common element from folk tales. She’s three and a half years old for the majority of the book, and she has all sorts of strange abilities — she makes it rain; she can hear thoughts; she even puts someone into a coma with just the power of her mind. Frankly, any one of those things would make a normal mother incredibly freaked-out. The fact that Fana has a lot more power than even David or any of his fellow immortals clearly would make anyone nervous, and I thought that Jessica’s feelings were well-done and entirely natural.
Parts of this book deal with race in interesting ways. The majority of the characters are African-American. Yes, the bad guys are white in general but the worst of ‘em all isn’t. Some of the good guys are white, as well. Lucas’s wife was white, and he is light-skinned, so his son looks white. When he goes to Africa, he’s treated with a measure of suspicion by the locals, even after he explains that American society makes very little differentiation between light-skinned African-Americans (or Caribbean-Americans) and darker-skinned ones. Another character thinks something very uncharitable about a person who is half African, half Irish. Overall, though, the conflict isn’t really over race — it’s over the immortal blood.
That doesn’t mean that the racial element of the Africans and African-Americans having what the white people want should be ignored. I’m sure that Ms. Due intended to provoke thought surrounding this issue and how it’s topsy-turvy of, oh, say, the AIDS epidemic in Africa (the rich white countries being so benevolent as to provide life-saving medication to the poor savages in Africa, and I’m being extraordinarily sarcastic here). Overall, it was both an entertaining book and a book that made me consider certain elements in the world differently, and I’m looking forward to finding more books by Ms. Due. 4.5/5 stars.