ISBN #: 978-0670024780
Page Count: 384
Copyright: January 7, 2014
Publisher: Viking; First Edition
(Taken from Amazon)
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.
I would like to think that if I had been born in the time where slaves were prominent, I would've been part of the underground railroad and/or abolitionist movement. Reading this novel, though, makes me realize how little women's opinions were valued during this time. Would I really have the will and domineering spirit to go against the norms of society?
On her eleventh birthday, the spark of equality for all people was ignited in Sarah's spirit when her mother presented her with Hetty as a gift. Sarah, bless her heart, had a very naive, limited view of the world. She thought she could just go to her father and have him set Hetty free for her. What Sarah began to realize on that day was that her family held more value in maintaining society's standards than going against the grain. At one point in her life, Sarah FINALLY begins making choices to fight against the prejudiced flow of society.
Hetty, as typical of many slaves, was born a slave to a slave mother. Unlike some slaves, she's actually able to stay with her mother on the same plantation. Hetty yearns to be free. She finds little ways over the years to proclaim her independence. Not once does Hetty allow herself to believe she's a slave. She inherently knows that it's important for her mind to be free. If her mind is free, then she's free. It's only a matter of time that her body follows suit ... whether in life or death.
I enjoyed this novel for the literary aspect. It's not a fanciful read. It's meant to be read seriously and with care. It's slightly heavy in its content, but would appeal to the majority of literary readers out there. I would definitely read this book again.
*A physical copy of this novel was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.