Written By: Sue Monk Kidd
Published By: Viking Adult January 7, 2014
Length: 384 pages
Source: e galley via Edelweiss via publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.
Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid.We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty-five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.
As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.
Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.
This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.(goodreads)
First, my guilty confession. I read this book almost 2 months ago, took a few notes and failed to write a review. No excuse, I enjoyed the book, I bought a ticket to an event to hear the author and purchase the hardcover book and then I was too sick to attend. So my thoughts aren’t going to be eloquent, or passionate, but let’s hope honest.
I enjoyed learning about Sarah Grimke, an unknown historical figure who was so ahead of her time in thinking of anti slavery and the rights of women. She was so unlike the young women of her time and she took so much abuse because of it. I felt sad at the way she was treated by her mother.
The character of Hetty was so well written I admired all that Kidd put into the details. Hetty aspired for more than her mother had been, but she also respected her mother’s role. While the relationship between Hetty and Sarah isn’t close, and didn’t develop the way I thought it would I did see that Sarah gave Hetty opportunity. Hetty had access to books and learning that being a house slave typically didn’t allow. Both women dreamed of a different life. Slavery is such an ugly part of history, I’m always amazed at how the slave owners attempted to appear kind of well intentioned. The Grimke’s may have appeared civil but were just as cruel. Sarah’s mother was perhaps one of the most difficult characters to read.
This book was very well researched and written, something expected by Sue Monk Kidd, as I’ve loved her work for years. Writing a novel based on a real historical figure and yet making it her own, she has given new generations of young women something to be proud of from earlier generations. I highly recommend. If you’ve been on the fence on this book, I say pick it up!