Farnam's Freehold is about a family plus several others who are too near a spectacular explosion when a “Pearl Harbor” nuclear attack occurs. Instead of being annihilated, they are transported into a different time line where the world is ruled by cannibalistic Blacks. Whites and several other races are relegated to slavery and near obscurity. Slavery is not limited to Whites and other races – some Blacks are also slaves.
Hugh Farnam is head of the house. He's believed that an attack was almost inevitable and has gotten ready for it by setting up a shelter in his basement. His son disagreed with him and this is one of the reasons they are almost estranged.
His wife is a drunk and his daughter is home from college. Her girl friend, a slightly older college student, is visiting her at the Farnam household when war breaks out. The Farnam's “servant,” a young Black man, is also transported, as is the family cat (Dr. Livingston I Presume).
After their initial surprise at surviving, they receive a further shock when there is no evidence of the attack outside their shelter. The Earth hasn't changed but no man-made evidence of Hugh's world ever existed here.
Given the circumstances (Hugh thinks they may be the only humans alive), he is pleased to discover his daughter's pregnant by someone unrelated to them. Having lived apart (sexually) from his wife for several years, Hugh is drawn to his daughter's friend. Again, given the circumstances, they fall in love and she also becomes pregnant.
His daughter dies shortly after giving birth and her child shortly follows her in death.
They are making the best life they can when they are suddenly discovered by the Blacks and taken into the household of an important person in the service of Uncle the Mighty. The Blacks have vehicles and weapons which are different from and possibly superior to what Hugh's used to, but he has something they don't possess – knowledge, both in his mind and in the books he has saved.
This report prepared by John McCoy
This is one of Heinlein's very best "survival in the wilderness" books. The premise is unusual, to say the least; a nearby A-bomb explosion throws inhabitants of a bomb shelter several hundred years into the future where they're forced to learn how to survive in the wilderness with only the tools they've brought with them and the wits of their leader, Hugh Farnham. The first half of the book describes how they painfully struggle just to survive, planting crops, hunting for food, and just trying generally to cope. The second half gets really interesting, when they become slaves/servants of the new masters of the Earth--black people who view white people as little more than dumb animals.
The story, I think, is meant to parallel the treatment blacks received when they were ruled by whites during the period of slavery, and give white people an understanding of what it must be like to be a slave.
As a slave Hugh is relatively well treated, but he yearns for freedom, even if it means hardship and risk of capture and death. He rejectes the "happiness" drug that's used to keep people enslaved, and is horrified by his master's practice of cannibalism. That's when Hugh plots his escape, and then some really interesting things happen!
This report prepared by Steve