Washington Black, by Esi Edugyan


If you haven’t seen or heard of Washington Black, you must be hiding under a rock!!! It is the “it” book this fall. While being nominated for both the Man Booker Prize, and the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the accolades for this book are everywhere. BUT, the reason I was motivated to go out and buy this one is that I had gotten very envious when I was told by someone that their book club was reading it… so I thought I’d read it as well, thinking there would be lots to think and chat about in this one. Well, yes, my assumption was accurate!

It’s 1830, in Barbados, on a sugar plantation where you meet Washington Black. He is an eleven year old field slave, who has been chosen by the slave master’s brother, “Titch”, to be his servant. Titch is a scientist, an inventor, and an abolitionist.Β Titch teaches Washington many things, and gets his help with building a hot air balloon. When the tension at the plantation has risen to an all-time high, Titch decides that he and Wash are getting out of there… via the hot air balloon. From here the adventure begins, with travels around the world, but Wash cannot run away from the trauma of his past. The deep cuts that the plantation has left, and the abuse that was put on the people there are unforgettable. Titch and Wash have a very deep relationship, and as the story unfolds the real adventure begins when they are separated.

Esi Edugyuan’s beautiful prose is a delight to read. It paints a picture so clear that you feel the humidity described, and really feel the characters personalities. What she has done is written a book that makes the reader realize that the trauma of your past can shroud what seems like a bright future. At first I thought this was going to be a story about slavery, but by the end you realize that it’s much more than that. Yes, the terrors of slavery are addressed, but what the real content showed me was how deeply trauma affects someone. Wash went from being a field slave, to a freeman. To the outside eye you would think how lucky his chances were. But the fact that he deals with the guilt, and shame of the people who were his family that he had to leave behind is just all too overwhelming. He deals with the memories that are deeply rooted within the scars of his body, and are resurfaced upon a familiar sight, smell, or feeling.

We must all take on faith the stories of our birth, for though we are in them, we are not yet present.

There were so many fantastic characters in this story. Obviously Wash, but mostly I loved Titch. He was a deeply human character, whom I need to learn more about. I think what would be brilliant to chat with a book club about his story. If you’ve read this book, you will understand what I mean, because his story for me just didn’t feel complete when I finished this book.

This is the type of book that feels like a complete joy to read, but after you close it you continue to think about it. I finished this book over two weeks ago, and just could not figure out the words to write that would give it justice. I just think it’s beautiful, and deserves to be read.

Have you read this one? Please… let’s chat. I’m dying to have a conversation about Washington Black.



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