Author: Laila Ibrahim
Genre: Historical FictionFormat: Kindle ebook (ARC)
Publisher: Flaming Chalice Press
Published: December 17, 2012
First Line: "Mattie was never truly mine."
Synopsis: This novel, set in 1800's antebellum Virginia, is the story of a privileged white girl named Lisbeth Wainright and her black wet nurse, Mattie. Shortly after Lisbeth was born she is handed off to Mattie to be nursed and cared for. It doesn't take long for Lisbeth to love Mattie and see her as more of a mother figure than her own mother. Mattie, even though she was taken from her own infant son to care for Lisbeth, also begins to love the girl as her own and their bond only intensifies as the years pass.As Lisbeth grows and no longer requires Mattie's daily help, Mattie is returned to the slave Quarter. In the meantime, Lisbeth focuses on learning all that is required of her to be a daughter of a successful plantation owner and begins to realize the restrictions that she has placed on her due to her station in life.
Lisbeth also begins to struggle between her deep love for Mattie and her parents' absolute and unashamed support of slavery. When Lisbeth is witness to a brutal act against one of the slaves that is not taken seriously by those around her she knows that she must make a choice once and for all ... even if it means losing everything she has.
My Thoughts: This is the first book by Laila Ibrahim and I was pleasantly surprised and impressed with her writing. It's not only a very easy read (I read it in a little over one day) but it's filled with heart and a reminder of a time that we should never forget.I think that one of the main reasons that this book resonated with me is that I'm very intrigued about this era in history. Like the Holocaust (another era that has always intrigued me), the era of slavery was such a brutal time.
You may think it odd that I like to read about depressing, horrible times in history but it's quite the opposite. Yes, there are truly horrific acts that happened during slavery and WWII that I hope and pray never happen again. Without a doubt. But it's during those horrific times that the positive features of humanity are also highlighted. Bravery, hope, love, self-sacrifice, faith, endurance ....
For someone like me, who was born over a century after slavery, it's almost hard to wrap my head around the fact that people felt justified to treat others in such an inhuman and despicable way. Not only was the physical and emotional abuse shocking but it was heartbreaking reading how black people were treated as chattel. Easily sold to other plantations without any thought to the fact that whole families were being separated, sometimes permanently, at the whim of their 'owners'.
It's due to my interest in the era of slavery that I've read quite a few novels on the subject. That being said, I don't think that slavery was as brutally portrayed as I've read in other books like 'The Book of Negroes', 'The Kitchen House' or 'Roots' (some of my all-time favourite books dealing with slavery). But I think that Ibrahim took a 'lighter' portrayal of the cruelty of slavery because the story mainly focused on Lisbeth and her very limited view of slavery. So, as the reader we only get glimpses into the brutality as Lisbeth sees it.
One of the main reasons that I loved this book is the characters. Mattie and Lisbeth could have easily been portrayed as one-dimensional clichés. Instead Ibrahim has created well-rounded characters who leaped off the page and truly engaged me. I enjoyed seeing Lisbeth go from an immature, naive girl who followed her parents' wishes to a young woman who begins to realize the devastating effects of slavery and decides to do something about it. Mattie is a character that, right from the beginning, broke my heart and inspired me all at the same time. Here's a woman who is taken from her own infant in order to care for and nurse her owner's daughter. Mattie is a strong, proud woman who endures so much.
It's because of this connection with those characters that I wish more detail was included about their some of the Lisbeth's childhood that (I felt) was glossed over. Don't get me wrong. Wanting to know more about characters is a good thing. That is how much these characters stayed with me. I just think that the book itself was a little on the short side. The length of the book affected how deep the author was able to get into the topic of slavery and the relationships between the characters. The story, while enjoyable, was also a little too predictable and neatly tied up in the end.While this is not as gritty or brutal as other books I've read on the subject it was still very enjoyable and enlightening. I could easily see this book being read by not only adults but teens as a good way to introduce the topic of slavery.
Note: My sincere thanks go to NetGalley and Flaming Chalice Press for providing me with this e-book in return for my honest review.My Rating: 4/5 stars