Synopses & Reviews
From the celebrated author of The Secret Life of Bees
, a magnificent novel about two unforgettable American women
Writing at the height of her narrative and imaginative gifts, Sue Monk Kidd presents a masterpiece of hope, daring, the quest for freedom, and the desire to have a voice in the world and it is now the newest Oprah's Book Club 2.0 selection.
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.
“A remarkable novel that heightened my sense of what it meant to be a woman — slave or free...will resonate with anyone who has ever struggled to find her power and her voice...Sue Monk Kidd has written a conversation changer. It is impossible to read this book and not come away thinking differently about our status as women and about all the unsung heroines who played a role in getting us to where we are." Oprah Winfrey, O The Oprah Magazine
“A searing historical novel...these two women's relationship with each other grows more complex while the culture shape-shifts around them. Their bold individual requests for independence are explored by Kidd in exquisitely nuanced language that makes this book a page turner in the most resonant and satisfying of ways.” More
“Kidd hits her stride and avoids sentimental revisionism with this historical novel about the relationship between a slave and the daughter of slave owners in antebellum Charleston....Kidd's portrait of white slave-owning southerners is all the more harrowing for showing them as morally complicated while she gives Handful the dignity of being not simply a victim, but a strong, imperfect woman.” Kirkus Reviews
“A moving portrait of two women inextricably linked by the horrors of slavery….Kidd is a master storyteller, and, with smooth and graceful prose, she immerses the reader in the lives of these fascinating women as they navigate religion, family drama, slave revolts, and the abolitionist movement.” ALA Booklist
“Monk's compelling work of historical fiction stands out from the rest because of its layers of imaginative details in the lives of actual abolitionists….This richly imagined narrative brings both black history and women's history to life.” Library Journal
About the Author
Sue Monk Kidd is the author of three novels, The Secret Life of Bees, The Mermaid Chair, and, most recently, The Invention of Wings, which will be published by Viking in January 2014. The Secret Life of Bees spent more than two and a half years on the New York Times bestseller list, was adapted into an award-winning movie, and has been translated into thirty-six languages. The Mermaid Chair, a #1 New York Times bestseller, was adapted into a television movie. She is also the author of the memoirs The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, When the Heart Waits, and, with her daughter Ann Kidd Taylor, the New York Times bestseller Traveling with Pomegranates. Her early writings on spirituality are collected in the book Firstlight. The recipient of numerous literary awards, Sue lives in southwest Florida with her husband, Sandy, and their black Lab, Lily.