Any Known Blood: Book summary and reviews of Any Known Blood by Lawrence Hill

Any Known Blood

By Lawrence Hill

Any Known Blood
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  • Published in USA  Jan 1999,
    512 pages.

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Book Summary

Spanning five generations, sweeping across a century and a half of almost unknown history, this acclaimed and unexpectedly funny novel is the story of a man seeking himself in the mirror of his family's past.

There were Canes in Canada before the United States erupted into civil war. Their roots are deep, their legacy is rich, but Langston Cane V knows little of his heritage. He is thirty-eight, divorced, and childless and has just been fired for sabotaging a government official's speech. The eldest son of a white mother and prominent black father, Langston feels more acutely than ever the burden of his illustrious family name and his racially mixed heritage. To be black in a white society is hard enough; to be half-black, half-white is to have no identity at all. Or so Langston believes. After a run-in with his father, Langston takes off for his feisty aunt's house in Baltimore, where he embarks on a remarkable quest for his family's past.

It's said that those who forget history are condemned to repeat it, but to Langston, history offers not condemnation but reprieve. For when he stumbles across a treasure trove of family documents, he sets off on a journey through time that will lead him back to the famous antislavery raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia, and the great-great-grandfather who fought beside John Brown. He rediscovers the long line of relatives who have battled for racial justice, decade after decade. He finds passion, dignity, and courage--and, at last, by unearthing and giving voice to those who came before him, he finds himself.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"His straightforward, good-humored prose, however, seems too deferent to the richness of the story being told. A touch of lyricism would limber up this lengthy work." - Publishers Weekly.

"Hill's affable narrative voice, spiced with wit and humor, makes Cane's quest a delightful one....within Any Known Blood are at least five more stories dying to be told." - The New York Times.

"Lawrence Hill is on to something new; a literary examination of psyche and bones and flesh. History and the imagination of this young author surge vibrantly to define, over generations, the true meaning of life. Any Known Blood becomes more than a history of lives that might normally be lost, and is instead its new interpretation." - Austin Clarke.

"Any Known Blood is a remarkable achievement. Here is an immensely readable novel, populated with sympathetic yet realistic characters. It deals sensitively, yet often humorously, with one of the most compelling issues of our time in North America -- the ever-shifting, ever-problematic relationship between the races. Lawrence Hill is a wonderfully talented writer and Any Known Blood will be one of the talked-of novels of the year." - Joyce Carol Oates.

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Author Information

Lawrence Hill Author Biography

Lawrence Hill is the author of the novels Any Known Blood (1999), Some Great Thing (1992) and The Book of Negroes (2007) (Someone Knows My Name in USA) and the non-fiction works Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada (2001); Women of Vision: The Story of the Canadian Women's Association (1996) and Trials and Triumphs: The Story of African-Canadians (1993). He also co-authored, with Joshua Key, The Deserter's Tale: The Story of an Ordinary Soldier Who Walked Away from the War in Iraq (2007),  about former American soldier, Joshua Key's, experiences in Iraq that led him to desert after seven months and seek asylum in Canada. 

Born in Toronto in 1957, Hill is the son of a black man and a white woman, American-born civil rights activists ...

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