It’s a novel built around the actual life of Sarah Grimke and a fictional depiction of characters in the slave-holding Grimke family of Charleston, South Carolina. It recounts the evolution of Sarah and her sister, Angelina, into outstanding abolitionists and pioneers of women’s struggle for equality. At the same time, what drives the narrative is the fierce hatred of blacks against slavery, their burning desire for freedom, brought out especially in the experience of the slave, Hetty, who grew up with Sarah, and Hetty’s mother, Caroline. These are fully drawn characters, rich in creativity and imagination, with fertile minds and strong emotions.
Kidd probes much about human interactions: black slaves with whites, slaves with each other, women with women, women with men. She looks at differences in religious belief or lack thereof, including contradictions among Quaker abolitionists. It’s so much deeper and more thoughtful than The Help, which got so much attention a couple of years ago. True, the periods covered were different, but The Help lacked authenticity in depicting the relative role of black and white women in confronting the Jim Crow society. In my opinion, Kidd’s is a much richer book, and I hope it’s read and discussed as widely as The Help.