A mother-daughter tale, a coming of age story, and an exploration of antebellum life in the U.S. as a freed black woman–Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge certainly has a lot to offer. The prose is gorgeous, but ultimately, I gave this book 3 stars. It was a slow, unengaging read for me. It took me almost a week to read this–I eventually had to move from audio to physical book. It’s a beautifully written book, but the prose ultimately can’t overwhelm the plot which meanders and dips and dives at times.
Libertie is born a freed black girl to an almost white passing mother, who is a doctor, and a dark-skinned father. Raised by her mother after her father’s death, Libertie sees her mother’s practice front and center, her role in helping escaped slaves find freedom, and the ways medicine can’t fix wounds of the spirit. The first section of the book focuses on one man, Ben Daisy, that comes into Libertie’s life via a coffin in her mother’s living room, and who impacts the way Libertie thinks about the world quite a bit. Then, Libertie tries to learn her mother’s practice and tend the garden, she makes her way to school and college, and ultimately, we see Libertie fall in love with a man training with her mother and move to Haiti to make a life with him. Through new experiences, first moments, and awakenings of different sorts, Libertie comes into her own and has to start making the real decisions in her life, including deciding what her relationship with her mother will be.
Like I said–the writing is really strong in this novel. Clearly, the author can WRITE. But the beautiful prose doesn’t really move the plot like it should–it almost clogs it up. This book isn’t disjointed overall, but it feels that way in small sections. Luckily, it’s a short book–like 320 pages–so you don’t get too lost, but I was a little underwhelmed by the plot and narrative overall. I enjoyed looking at the antebellum war from a different point of view–of a freed black girl, of a black girl who leaves the U.S.–but ultimately, I gave it 3 stars. Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for it–it took me a long time to get into, and I so easily fell back out as soon as I turned a page.
Libertie is on sale wherever books are sold.