Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
Kidd's (The Secret Life of Bees) latest is a remarkable work of historical fiction that relates the story of the wealthy Charleston, SC, Grimke sisters, Sarah and Angelina. Their house slave Hetty "Handful" Grimke inspires their efforts toward abolition and women's rights, and she ultimately becomes an integral part of them. The work is superbly read by Jenna Lamia and Adepero Oduye; the language wonderfully communicates the bond that evolves among these complex women as they travel through the political landscape and the social movements of this era. Be sure to listen to the last minutes of content as Kidd discusses her research and how it intertwines with the well-told fictional tale. -VERDICT An exceptional audiobook-this story is not to be missed. ["This richly imagined narrative brings both black history and women's history to life with an unsentimental story of women who became sisters under the skin," read the starred review of the Viking hc, LJ 11/1/13; see the Q&A with author Kidd on this page.]-Sandra C. Clariday, Tennessee Wesleyan Coll., Athens (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Kidd's novel spans more than three decades and follows the lives of "Handful"-a 10-year-old slave living in Charleston in the early 19th-century with the Grimke family-and Sarah Grimke-the remarkable daughter of the house, whom, on her 11th birthday, is given Handful as a gift. Oduye and Lamia share the narration in this audio edition, with the former reading Handful's sections of the book and the latter handling Sarah's. Oduye skillfully captures the essence of Handful. Her pacing, tone, and annunciation are just right, and the southern accent she reads with pitch perfect. Lamia turns in an equally enjoyable performance. Her airy narration, steady pacing, and southern accent more than do justice to Sarah. Fans of Kidd's novel will be delighted. A Viking hardcover. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* Inspired by the true story of early-nineteenth-century abolitionist and suffragist Sarah Grimke, Kidd paints a moving portrait of two women inextricably linked by the horrors of slavery. Sarah, daughter of a wealthy South Carolina plantation owner, exhibits an independent spirit and strong belief in the equality of all. Thwarted from her dreams of becoming a lawyer, she struggles throughout life to find an outlet for her convictions. Handful, a slave in the Grimke household, displays a sharp intellect and brave, rebellious disposition. She maintains a compliant exterior, while planning for a brighter future. Told in first person, the chapters alternate between the two main characters' perspectives, as we follow their unlikely friendship (characterized by both respect and resentment) from childhood to middle age. While their pain and struggle cannot be equated, both women strive to be set free Sarah from the bonds of patriarchy and Southern bigotry, and Handful from the inhuman bonds 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. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Beginning with her phenomenally successful debut, The Secret Life of Bees (2002), Kidd's novels have found an intense readership among library patrons, who will be eager to get their hands on her latest one.--Price, Kerri Copyright 2010 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
Kidd (The Mermaid Chair, 2005, etc.) 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. Sarah Grimk was an actual early abolitionist and feminist whose upbringing in a slaveholding Southern family made her voice particularly controversial. Kidd re-imagines Sarah's life in tandem with that of a slave in the Grimk household. In 1803, 11-year-old Sarah receives a slave as her birthday present from her wealthy Charleston parents. Called Hetty by the whites, Handful is just what her name implies--sharp tongued and spirited. Precocious Sarah is horrified at the idea of owning a slave but is given no choice by her mother, a conventional Southern woman of her time who is not evil but accepts slavery (and the dehumanizing cruelties that go along with it) as a God-given right. Soon, Sarah and Handful have established a bond built on affection and guilt. Sarah breaks the law by secretly teaching Handful to read and write. When they are caught, Handful receives a lashing, while Sarah is banned from her father's library and all the books therein, her dream of becoming a lawyer dashed. As Sarah and Handful mature, their lives take separate courses. While Handful is physically imprisoned, she maintains her independent spirit, while Sarah has difficulty living her abstract values in her actual life. Eventually, she escapes to Philadelphia and becomes a Quaker, until the Quakers prove too conservative. As Sarah's activism gives her new freedom, Handful's life only becomes harder in the Grimk household. Through her mother, Handful gets to know Denmark Vesey, who dies as a martyr after attempting to organize a slave uprising. Sarah visits less and less often, but the bond between the two women continues until it is tested one last time. 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.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.