In 1998, the movie, Saving Private Ryan came out in theaters. That summer, my 9-year old brother and little sister came to visit us in Quantico. We swam, did some sightseeing, and we took them to see Saving Private Ryan. It was outstanding, and it is one I have watched several times. However, at the time, my little brother fell asleep within the first few minutes. He was young, had played in the sun all day. I figured that he was just sleepy. My husband, on the other hand, realized that the poor kid fell asleep because the destruction and pain from the assault on the beach was too much for his young mind. His mind needed to shut those vivid scenes off, so he fell asleep. My brother is still very sensitive, and it is one of his best qualities.
What does that have to do with the book?
I am not a fast reader, but it took me a while to get through this book. I enjoyed the story, and Sue Monk Kidd’s writing is outstanding. Why did I continue to fall asleep when I was reading it?
The chapters of the book flip back and forth between a slave owner’s story, and the story of Hetty, a remarkably brave, determined slave. Each time I got to the chapters from Hetty’s, perspective, they were so devastating and so upsetting that my mind would shut off, and I would fall asleep. It took me getting through half the book to realize that I was doing exactly what Mario had done in the movie. It was too much for my brain and heart to handle. There are parts of our history that are so painful; our minds would rather shut down and turn the thoughts off, than to face them head on, and that is exactly what I was doing. Once I figured out what was happening, I never fell asleep reading again.
I continue to be astounded at how terrible human beings can be to one another.
About the book
The story is set from 1803 – 1838, and the characters aren’t just characters in a book. They existed. Most of the story is set in Charleston, but we get a glimpse of life in the north during that time. The story is primarily about slavery, and the cruelty of slavery, but we see strength and fearlessness. Sue Monk Kidd also writes about creativity and story-telling from a slave’s perspective. Toward the end, we start to see the women’s rights movement take shape, and we see impressive courage. We see how women begin to find and use their voices. Those voices made an impact.
It is a story of hope. It is a story of love. It is a story pain. It is a story of suffering. It is a story of courage. It is a reminder that the rights and freedom for people of color and for women must be held sacred.