TITLE: Red River
AUTHOR: Lalita Tademy
PUBLICATION: 2007 by Warner Books
For the newly-freed black residents of Colfax, Louisiana, the beginning of Reconstruction promised them the right to vote, own property-and at last control their own lives.Tademy saw a chance to start a school for his children and neighbors. His friend Israel Smith was determined to start a community business and gain economic freedom. But in the space of a day, marauding whites would “take back” Colfax in one of the deadliest cases of racial violence in the South. In the bitter aftermath, Sam and Israel’s fight to recover and build their dreams will draw on the best they and their families have to give-and the worst they couldn’t have foreseen.
WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT IT . . .
The only reason that I have this book is because I loved the author’s previous novel Cane River. I can’t remember whether my mother or myself purchased Red River when it was on the bargain table at Borders, but I’ve had it for a few years and not really touched it. Still I figured it was time to finally dust it off and see whether or not I wanted to keep it on my shelves or add it to my stack of books to donate to the public library.
I think it’s interesting how Tademy constructs her books around the family lore of her ancestors. I’ve thought about writing stories based around the anecdotes of my own family.
The main event of this book is the 1873 Colfax “riot”. The reader is shown how residents became involved and the tense feeling of a storm that none would escape from unscathed during the ensuing weeks. The chapters leading up to the conflict are peppered with anecdotes about Sam and Israel’s past in slavery and their fledgling years of freedom. The first half of the novel details the weeks leading up to the massacre at Colfax and then each chapter afterward jumps ahead in the span of years to see what happens to the survivors and the families involved. I think that I probably would have liked the pacing better if the first half of the book hadn’t been drawn out so much and the second half occur at such a breakneck speed of covering the next sixty years.
A few characters are given the better portion of the center stage. Although I probably would have liked to see more from some of the characters who aren’t really touched upon that often. You really have to feel sorry for Noby and how his half-brother treated him. Even if you don’t like family, you don’t do that to them. It’s cold. At any rate I can say for certain that I do not have a favorite. I suppose it wouldn’t be a bother if I liked the book more. There have been well written books I liked even though I failed to have a real favorite from among the characters in it.
This book had its moments and some good writing, but it just didn’t quite enrapture me as the author’s previous book had done. Its main fault I think was its pacing, but it failed to hook me as anything that I would wish to read again.