My general opinions on books & occasionally other stuff.
by Laila Ibrahim
This book took me away from all my other reads and now the sequel is doing the same. The setting is pre-civil war Virginia, a large tobacco plantation with, you guessed it, slaves. The main character is Mattie, a slave woman who is forced to hand her son over to family in 'the quarters' because her services as a wet nurse are required for the master's new baby daughter.
The writing is good and it really shines a spotlight on what life was like for black slaves in that time and place. Husbands, wives, children or parents might get sold at any time, work was hard (I knew that part) and legal status was pretty slim. What I didn't know was that a law was changed to enable plantation owners to use slaves as free labour. Originally, indentured slaves (whether black, Irish or whatever) were to work for a set amount of time, then be entitled to freedom and making a life for themselves. But that wasn't cost effective so they changed it to make black slaves less than human in the law.
I'm so glad my ancestors never owned slaves!
Anyway, the story has many levels, including Mattie's growing affection for the child in her care as well as her increasing ability to see her own family, including her son, as the baby grows less dependent. The family dynamics of the rich landowners is thrown into stark exposure for the fake and dysfunctional mess that such families tend to become when they get too full of their own imagined importance.
The character development was very well done and the history realistic and poignant, showing the reader how important it is that we never let our species fall into this level of inhumanity again.