My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Historical fiction is my natural habitat. I write it for a living, and I read it constantly. I know what went into the writing of this novel and I admire the way the author brought Charleston to life. The history itself, the story of the Grimke sisters and their dedication to abolition and women’s rights, is enthralling stuff.
Sue Monk Kidd can write a beautiful sentence, she can construct a paragraph and a scene and put it all together. So all the pieces are there, but the novel failed to come together for me. The problem for me was mostly about mechanics, pacing and focus.
Kidd seems to never really decide what this novel is about. If it’s about the Grimke sisters and their mission to educate the country and bring about justice, then it takes far too long to get off the ground. A full half of the novel takes place before they really get started. If it’s about Handful, then her story is unbalanced and piecemeal. Pacing is crucial to a story like this, and the pacing was off.
My strong impression is that Kidd would have been better able to find a rhythm if she had written this in third person. She never really gets her feet on the ground writing as Sarah or as Handful; approaching the story in third person would have given her more perspective and focused the narrative.
A number of times I felt as if we were finally shifting up out of first gear only to fall back again into a putter. It’s unfortunate, because the material is very rich and full of promise.