This book was my book club’s book of the month during one of those months I didn’t have time to join them. But I read it and here’s a very simplified idea of what it was about.
The story is told from the point of view of two girls who grow up over the course of the story. One girl is Sarah Grimke, the outspoken middle daughter of a slave-owning southern businessman. The other girl is a slave called Handful. Each chapter is one or the other girl. I like that. It makes things clear.
I love the difference in their voices and found it interesting that by the end of the book they sound very similar. I especially liked looking at the world from the point of view of Handful. The story became a sort of “upstairs/downstairs” kind of story, which was wonderful. Even as Sarah moves to Pennsylvania, we are able to watch what happens back at the house in Charlestown.
We see an attempt at a slave uprising. We see the terrible work house where slaves are sent to be punished, because their owners didn’t want to get their hands “dirty”. We see Handful’s mother teaching Handful how to sew and what it means to have a history. You have to know where you came from to know where you’re going.
From Sarah’s point of view I learned more about the Quakers than I ever knew. I knew they were against slavery but didn’t realize they were as bigoted as anyone else from that time.
And most fascinating of all is that the story is based on real people and real historical events.