This book was a stunner, it held me from page 1 and never let me go. I was a big fan of Monk Kidd's first book The Secret Life of Bees and not so much a fan of her second, so I was a little doubtful that I would like this and although the pre publication publicity was pretty favourable I still took a deep breath when I bought it and then I hoped, my hopes were more than rewarded.
Set in the American Deep South in the days when slavery was rife, women were chattels and life was ruled by religious persuasion and social mores, Sarah Grimke' the daughter of a prosperous Judge and a dour, sanctimonious Mother, has a rather forceful personality, a speech impediment and a desire for Freedom from the strictures that bind her to a culture that repulses her. Hetty known as Handful is the daughter of a colourful, vibrant, rebellious slave Mother who infuses in her daughter a desire for freedom equally as strong as Sarah's, to whom she is forever linked after being given to a mortified Sarah as a birthday gift, on Sarah's 11th birthday.
Based loosely on true events this powerful and gripping story takes it's reader on an unforgettable ride threw times and places that to our modern way of thinking are unbelievable and frankly mind numbing, it is so distressing to think that anyone could be treated in such a manner by another person.Although the book has it's low points, it is infused with hope, with courage, with humor and with the most incredible example of friendship I have seen in a long time, it is the friendship between Sarah and Hetty which is the books axis, there are any number of relationships in the book which are wonderfully and powerfully drawn by the author, the narrative is character driven with Sarah and Hetty alternating chapters, telling their own and shared stories in their distinctive voices.
The drawing of her characters and the ability of Monk Kidd to describe the places they inhabit is one of the strong points of this book, she has done her research and boy does it show! Nothing down to the smallest detail is overlooked and the portrait she paints puts you squarely in story and to the reader it all feels so real even down to the various smells she describes...read it and you will understand.
One of the most powerful stories I have read in a long time, this book encompasses every aspect of life in those times and some parts would still resonate today, the relationship difficulties between Men and Women and Mothers and Daughters would still ring a few bells!
A page turner with many twists in the journey, it is a book that has plenty of humor, some tears but ultimately testifies to the unbreakable bonds that can exist between people, it is a book that speaks to the power of love.
Make sure you read the Author's Note at the end, it is almost a chapter of its own.
Available at all good Booksellers, there is a very long waiting list at every Library for this book.