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Oprah's Book ClubŪ Selection #42
"...a unique and absorbing historical novel that opens a window onto a disturbing period of American history...The excerpt stirred discussion among our staff; our editors found it compelling and thought-provoking. We think you will too."
"I can't stop telling everyone who will listen about CANE RIVER."
--Elaine Petrocelli, Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA
"I enjoyed this book so much, I would get up early to read before going to work....This is a common story in our country's past but I felt Ms. Tademy wrote so well, and with her documentation put a fresh approach to this sad story. I hope she writes more."
--Dee Miller, Volume One Book Shop, Dickson, TN
"CANE RIVER is an incredible act of love. Astory of three generations of strong women, slaves and the complexity of their lives, and the importance of family. Lalita Tademy has imbued life and blood into her family history, capturing you with her first sentence and only releasing you with her final word."
--Amy Loewy, Garden District Book Shop, New Orleans, LA
"CANE RIVER exceeds and excels on every level. I think a new thesaurus would have to be published to find the right words to describe CANE RIVER! I was awed! I can't remember reading a first novel that has so impressed me or moved me in years. The only book I could come close to comparing CANE RIVER with would be Margaret Walker's novel Jubilee....CANE RIVER will be one of those books I will indeed reread. It is like listening to a great symphony; one does not tire from hearing it played many times. Thus it is with CANE RIVER. This wonderful first novel will not leave one satisfied with just one reading."
--Everett Barrineau, retired Penguin/Putnam sales rep, and 1999 SEBA Rep of the Year
"Absolutely loved it!! CANE RIVER is one of those few novels that must be read and read again to fully understand the characters and their culture, their feelings and their history."
--Jeri Myrick, Booktraders of Arkansas, Conway, AR
Narcisse entered Philomene's cabin. He had spent countless hours there, but this time when he came in there was a weight, a significance about the place, that he had never experienced before. Inside this room was his daughter, flesh of his flesh, a miracle he had almost given up on. Philomene's tiredness showed plainly in her face; her usually stern expression had relaxed somewhat, loosened by her ordeal. She held the small bundle close to her breast, hidden by the blanket.
"Your daughter is here." Philomene held her up to him. Narcisse came closer to the bed and took the child from Philomene, settling it awkwardly in his arms. Nothing had prepared him for this, the baby's warmth and fragility, and especially not the fierce rush of protectiveness that took hold of him.
"Her name is Emily Fredieu," Philomene said. "She must never work in the field."
-from CANE RIVER
A unique accomplishment, this is history never before told, an epic novel of four generations of African-American women, a work based on one family's actual meticulously researched past-and a book with enormous implications for us all.
Lalita Tademy had always been intensely interested in her family's stories, especially ones about her great-grandmother Emily, a formidable figure who died with her life's savings hidden in her mattress. Probing deeper for her family's roots, Tademy soon found herself swept up in an obsessive two-year odyssey-and leaving her corporate career for the little Louisiana farming community of...
It was here, on a medium-sized Creole plantation owned by a family named Derbanne, that author Lalita Tademy found her family's roots-and the stories of four astonishing women who battled vast injustices to create a legacy of hope and achievement. They were women whose lives began in slavery, who weathered the Civil War, and who grappled with the contradictions of emancipation through the turbulent early years of the twentieth century. Through it all, they fought to unite their family and forge success on their own terms. Here amid small farmhouses and a tightly knit community of French-speaking slaves, free people of color, and whites, Tademy's great-great-great-great grandmother Elisabeth would bear both a proud heritage and the yoke of slavery. Her youngest daughter, Suzette, would be the first to discover the promise-and heartbreak-of freedom. Suzette's strong-willed daughter Philomene would use determination born of tragedy to reunite her family and gain unheard-of economic independence. And Emily, Philomene's spirited daughter, would fight to secure her children's just due and preserve their future against dangerous odds.
In a novel that combines painstaking historical reconstruction with unforgettable storytelling, Lalita Tademy presents an all too rarely seen part of American history, complete with a provocative portrayal of the complex, unspoken bonds between slaves and slave owners. Most of all, she gives us the saga of real, flesh-and-blood women making hard choices in the face of unimaginable loss, securing their identity and independence in order to face any obstacle, and inspiring all the generations to come.
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