Sarah Grimké is headstrong and opinionated and when she is given her own slave on her eleventh birthday, she rejects the gift on principle. After she learns she cannot exactly do that, she and the young girl, Handful, establish a relationship built upon the idea that they should be seen as equals. With Sarah’s help, Handful is able to see herself as more than just a slave.
Sue Monk Kidd’s novel spans 35 years and watches both Sarah and Handful become more brazen individuals as they push the boundaries of what society tells them they are allowed to be. Unfortunately, the girls learn that – at least in the 19th century – you can’t have it all. It is not possible to be both a voice of abolition and maintain a romantic relationship. Each section of the book points to racial or gender roles that the girls try to break down. As a young girl, Sarah tries to illegally teach Handful to read and as a middle-aged woman she leads speaking engagements for abolitionism and women’s rights.
While I enjoyed seeing such female role models, I thought the book seemed to stretch on a bit without any real climax. There were plenty of mini hurdles to overcome, but no single defining moment of the novel. I admit, I found this book far more interesting when I learned [after having finished it] that it was based on a real life Sarah Grimké. And if Wikipedia is to be believed, it follows her life quite closely. When you understand many of the events are real, her life is that much more impressive. It also makes the lack of climax understandable. I respect that events were not changed for the sake of scintillation.
3 out of 5 stars.