In 1749, a proud Sierra Leone woman was captured, shipped to the New World, and sold as a slave. Her beauty and defiance complicate her life, as she becomes a target for rape and abuse from men, both black and white. Sapphire, her daughter, is also treated abusively by men, but goes on to be a mother herself, equally as proud. This tradition continues from mother to daughter as Sapphire’s ancestors try to find their way in the world. For generations, they tend to love the wrong men, men ranging from abusive to neglectful. Nevertheless, through each successive generation, Sapphire’s descendants learn a little more how to seek not only what they want but also what is good for them, and to recognize what is not.
This first novel by Ms. Gurley-Highgate is rich in imagery. Her words are well crafted, but her characters are not compelling enough to draw out the emotion that their difficult circumstances deserve. Nevertheless, Sapphire’s Grave has the substance of a truly great tale. The thread of pride and the will to survive even in the time of loss is clearly drawn through each successive generation of women. The indomitable spirit of these women who have borne immense tragedies and sorrows is a testimony to their strength of character. Hilda Gurley-Highgate is an author with promise.