On the morning of her ninth birthday, the day after Madame Francoise Derbanne slapped her, Suzette peed on the rosebushes. 

Cane River is an interesting, if easy book. Lalita Tademy traced her ancestry through four generations of remarkable woman, each struggling for her freedom in different ways. This is their story. First we have Elisabeth and then her daughter Suzette, who is the first to know the joys and the heartbreaks of freedom, her daughter Philomene, Philomene’s daughter Emily. All of these women are different, and they all go through different trials and tribulations, but they all have one thing in common: their unbreakable spirit. And I know that sounds really cliche, but it’s true. They never lose hope, and they stick together, despite the occasional spats.

The most interesting thing about Cane River is that most of the things that happen in the book, are, presumably, things that actually happened in real life. Lalita Tademy also wrote a book about her father’s side of her family, which I may or may not read.

I read Cane River for Language Arts class, and it did not help my reading experience. Normally, I would read a book this size in 2 or 3 days, but it got stretched out over two months. Two months. I know, right? So I would read the 40 some-odd pages assigned for four days in one day, and then kind of forget about the book, and then read another 40 pages 4 days later, and etc. In the intermediate time, I would kind of forget what happened. Not forget, exactly. It was more like the book lost its immediacy. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed Cane River.

There are some really disturbing things in this book. Both Suzette and Philomene have children with white Frenchmen, and Emily, Philomene’s daughter, ends up having relations with a white man over twice her age. But he genuinely loves her, I think. Cane River is not for the faint of heart, though there’s nothing too intense. Just some disturbing stuff. I would highly recommend this book, despite my short review.

Read Cane River:

  • if you like historical fiction nonfiction, fictionalized
  • if you like family history
  • if you like books set during the Civil War

517 pages, 4 stars.