The time is the early part of the 19th Century. The story is that of a Charleston slave girl, Hetty/Handful, and one of the young ladies of the household, Sarah. Handful has grown up in the home, and on Sarah's 11th birthday, is given to the young lady as a gift. Despite Sarah's strong feelings against slavery, she doesn't know how to reject slavery and her lifestyle. This is the story of who they both become.
I have to admit this book wasn't even on my radar until it was selected by my book club. However, given how much I enjoy historical fiction, and the fact that it was a fictionalized telling of the life of one of our nations oft-forgotten hero, I was looking forward to it.. I came away from the book wanting to know more about not just Sarah Grimke, but also her sister Angelina. Despite having spent a lot of time studying history, the story of what these two women accomplished is not one that dwelt on in the history books. It's a shame too, because they were at the forefront of both the abolitionist and feminist movements. Their names should be as highly praised as any other luminary in American history, though they are often forgotten.
Hetty/Handful's story is almost entirely fictional, though it is true that Sarah was in fact "gifted" a slave girl by the name of Hetty, a gift she tried to reject. Nothing is known of her beyond that one fact, but she made a good vehicle for telling the story of the plight of slaves, and also a starting place from which Sarah's deep rooted hatred of slavery could grow.