Select one of the keywords
Red River    by Lalita Tademy order for
Red River
by Lalita Tademy
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover, CD

Read an Excerpt

* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Daninhirsch

Some years ago, Lalita Tademy left her job as vice-president of a Fortune 500 company to research her colorful family history. Her first novel, Cane River, was based on her mother's family and was chosen as an Oprah Book Club selection. Red River chronicles her paternal ancestors and their role in the Colfax Riot of 1873.

When the novel opens, three out of her four paternal great-great grandparents are fighting for the rights of blacks in Colfax, Louisiana. Even though the slaves were technically freed several years earlier and blacks were given the right to vote, the regime was slow to adapt, and many whites could not accept these changes to their old way of life. Many black men in Colfax, including several of Tademy's family members, tried to defend the courthouse from white rebels, only to be massacred in great numbers, with no real change to the status quo.

The story then progresses from the after effects of this massacre to the everyday lives of the Tademys, including their struggles to provide for their families against a backdrop of racial tensions and violence. Several generations of Tademys are chronicled, ending with Tademy's own father.

Interweaving fact and fiction, Tademy has written an absorbing novel based on true events and real people; interspersed throughout the book are actual pictures of the author's ancestors. The dialogue is in the vernacular, which takes some adjustment, but it lends a measure of authenticity to the story. Universal themes run throughout Red River, such as pride in one's name and the importance of education and family. Tademy is a talented writer with a gift for storytelling; her novel is a worthwhile reading experience.

Audiobook Review by Melissa Parcel:

This is one of those books that translates very well to audio. The vernacular is often difficult to decipher in a written format. The words that are difficult to read in print flow beautifully out of the mouths of narrators Tim Cain and Gammy Singer, giving the listener a real sense of people and places. Mr. Cain's ability to portray different characters helps the listener hear the voices of the people, and also keep them separate and distinct.

Red River is very difficult to listen to in large portions, because the heartache and heartbreak are almost too much to take all at once. The themes are very meaningful, and a strong sense of family and community shines through. One cannot help but come away from the experience of listening to this book, inspired and in awe of what these people went through. I read and loved Cane River, and Red River is a fitting accompaniment. Lalita Tademy has incredible talent.

The Red River audiobook is only available in an abridged format - the CD version has five CDs, but it does not seem as though much has been left out. As a bonus to the reader, the fifth CD is also a CD-ROM, which brings up on the computer a family tree, album, maps and markers, an author interview, and narrator photos - all adding to the experience of this hearing the novel.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Historical books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews