This month's book club selection was Any Known Blood by Lawrence Hill. Sometimes I confuse an easy read with a good book. This was definitely an easy read even for one of our longer books of the year (about 500 pages). Overall I guess it was an alright book, but I didn't love the way it was written.
The story takes place in Oakville, Ontario and Baltimore. There are five generations of Langston Canes - from a runaway slave who came to Canada via the underground railroad to a writer who is having a midlife crisis of sorts. The story goes back and forth between the 5th Langston and the other generations, but the transitions are easy. If this can be a criticism, I found each of the Langstons and their supporting characters so intriguing, I wanted to read more about each one of them, but there wasn't enough book.
I loved the commentary about the treatment of black people in Canada as compared to the US. We like to think that because slavery was illegal in Canada for longer than it was in the US that we are so much more accepting and less racist than everyone. Although there were certainly better conditions for black people here, it was not perfect and I liked that these subtleties were pointed out in the book.
I really liked that it took place in Oakville, particularly since most of our book club meetings are in Oakville. In Lawrence Hill's other book "Book of Negroes", part of it takes place in my hometown, so I appreciate the local ties.
Despite what I did like about the book, I found it kind of tiresome. Maybe it was because this was our second slave related book this year, or maybe it was just the style of the book. I just sometimes felt like I know what the author is trying to do here, I get it, but it wasn't buying all of it.
However, if you're a fan of Lawrence Hill, or North American history in general, and haven't read this book yet, pick up a copy.
See our other book club selections here:
We are Water
We are Water