I just finished Lalita Tademy’s new book, Red River. Both this book and her first book, Cane River, are fictionalized accounts of her ancestor’s lives as African-Americans in Louisiana. Cane River takes place before the Civil War, while Red River starts in 1873. Both books are well-written and captivating reads.
In Red River, Lalita Tademy does an excellent job of weaving together fact and fiction. The facts come from her extensive research into her family history, and the book contains photographs of various documents as well as of some of the people. Tademy brings the facts to life with her vivid descriptions and her humane treatment of the multitude of factors that affected these people’s lives. The first half of the book is a detailed account of a few significant weeks in 1873, when the massacre of Colfax occurred. I found it slightly odd that the second half of the book is much less focused on a single point in time, but instead contains episodes of the family’s life from 1873 to 1937. However, I felt that it worked. Tademy effectively weaves some common themes throughout the narrative, such that it truly holds together as a novel.
I highly recommend both of Lalita Tademy’s novels.