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.
©2014 Sue Monk Kidd (P)2014 Penguin Audio
"Narrators Jenna Lamia and Adepero Oduye are well matched in talent; their performances of Kidd's dual-viewpoint fictionalized story of Sarah Grimké and her handmaid, Handful, complement each other perfectly. Both Lamia and Oduye adopt an accent and rhythm that befit the social status of their characters, modifying their voices subtly as the two protagonists grow from innocent girls to world-weary middle-aged women. Lamia keys in on Grimké's frustrations and victories in her fight for both abolition and women's rights, making it easy for listeners to sympathize with Grimké's difficult choices. Oduye's interpretation of Handful's personality, including her pride as a skilled seamstress and her yearning for freedom and self-identity, helps listeners connect emotionally to the slave. Together the narrators have created a stellar audiobook." (AudioFile)
I am so glad I listened to this book instead of just reading it. Both narrators added so much depth to the book with their accents, etc.
The story was mesmerizing and I dreaded the moments that I had to pause my reading. I happened to tour Charleston while reading this book and I was so excited to know how historically accurate the majority of this book is. The author did her homework and highlights an incredible story of two women who we have never heard of in the history books, simply because of their gender. But they showed great perseverance and courage in the face of adversity. What a lesson for all of us!!
In depth character development in the writing and beautiful differentiation by the reader. Difficult at times because the subject matter is difficult and the story is so well done. And this is what makes it an exceptional book. I rarely give a rating of 5 stars. More in line with The Secret Life Of Bees, than The Mermaid Chair (which I thought was a bit weak in all areas).
Reading different dialect and delivery can sometimes get cumbersome as sometimes the meaning of the author's words get lost in translation. I enjoyed listening to Sarah and Hetty (Handful) tell their story as it brought me right to the 1800s in Charleston. A powerful story to begin with, the addition of voices for the main characters helped create an instant bond with the reader.
A good comparison might be "The Help". I found The Invention of Wings to be a more powerful and moving story (perhaps because it is loosely based on a true story?), but both books explore the relationship between black and white women living in the racially conflicted South. Though told at different periods in our nation's history, each story exposes the cruel reality of life as a black women, while also beautifully depicting their complex relationship with white woman. Both stories focus not just on the hate and abuse, but on love and dependence.
I found I enjoyed each character equally. Other books have left me wishing we focused on one character before hopping on to another, but I never felt this way with The Invention of Wings. I welcomed each new chapter as the book bounced between Sarah and Handful.
YES! I listened to this story on my commute to and from work (about an hour each way) and often found myself waiting in my driveway for a few extra minutes as I just couldn't press stop!
Wonderful writing, amazing character development, painfully beautiful story depicting the struggle women - both black and white - faced in the early 1800s. Two thumbs up!
The historical details of old Charleston, interwoven with the sisters' struggles make a worthwhile read. I can see this becoming a wonderful movie. I loved the characters of Charlotte, Heddie and Sara. Heartbreaking & enchanting, I throughly enjoyed this audio book.
This book is beautifully written and informs us about issues that we as a society have yet to deal with. Racial inequality and gender bias still rear their ugly heads on a daily basis. Wonderfully woven, well researched and gripping literature such as this helps us to remember there's still so much work to do and we absolutely must do that work! Thanks to Sur Monk Kidd for another outstanding contribution to our understanding.
Haven't read the print version but the two narrators absolutely made the story for me.
It's history about women and their struggles "to be" in an all men's world, in the time they lived, and the prices paid by each.
Hettie (Handful) Grimke was the most outstanding simply because of her station in life and the narrator made her story more impactful than reading it on paper.
Would highly recommend this book and will be following up my history lessons...
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