Tom was an electronic technician and was at Shemya to maintain the electronic air navigational aids that were on the island, specifically a TACAN set, a state-of-the-art instrument that gave a pilot the location of his aircraft.
From the beginning, Tom made fast friends with his soon-to-be roommate, but found that the TACAN set had some serious problems. Correcting those problems became Tom’s top priority.
Also, he saw the opportunity to develop a business out of building high-quality electronic kits and arranged to run that business parallel with his Air Force duties.
A possibility of gaining an early release from the Air Force also presented itself at this time, and Tom along with three other young Air Force sergeants did everything they could to take advantage of the Air Force wide program that they were being denied. These efforts were rewarded with an alliance with a powerful senator.
Duty on Shemya was mainly a bore for Tom and all the other poor souls who were stationed there, but due to his own efforts and the circumstances that presented themselves they were able to do their work and even have a little fun along the way.
The danger that was inherent in the island’s location and the details of his duty were an always present factor in Tom’s daily life.
In spite of all the obstacles, Tom was able to turn his time at Shemya into an enormously enriching experience.
The author is a registered architect of many years and served in the Air Force during the 1960s. His experiences at Shemya were very much as written, little more than the names were changed and this was not done to protect the innocent.
Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.
Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.
As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.
Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.
This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.