Any Known Blood was my second read of the year. The story begins in Canada, where speech writer Langston Cane V pulls a hilarious stunt with the Prime Minister’s speech. It leads to the Prime Minister, and subsequently Langston, being “fired with cause.” After viewing the incident as a chance to start anew, he sets out to reconstruct the lives of his ancestors, particularly the four generations of Cane men that preceded him.
This is an intricate story that delves into the lives of the Canes’ paths to manhood beginning with Langston’s great-great-grandfather’s new start in Canada after his escape from slavery, though he never could call it home. He eventually returned to the US to participate in the raid on Harpers Ferry. Each of the five Cane men’s stories are told and it is Lawrence Hill doing what he does beautifully - historical fiction.
The story weaves in the Civil Rights struggle in Canada. Until reading about Langston the third’s encounters with the Ku Klux Klan in Ontario, I was clueless about the issues there that were similar to those in America’s Deep South. One of the Canes makes a home in Baltimore, where violence was as present then as it is today. Part of the novel is set in Washington, DC, where colorism played a major role in the African American community at one time, even contributing to who a person could marry.
I read Any Known Blood following The Book of Negroes/Someone Knows My Name and it led me to go ahead and pick up Hill's first novel Some Great Thing. Lawrence Hill’s fourth novel, The Illegal, will be released on January 25, 2016 and guess who has already read that too! The film rights have been acquired, so as with The Book of Negroes, The Illegal will be coming to the big screen!