Sue Monk Kidd: The Invention of Wings

by Rachel Baker on January 21, 2014

The Invention of Wings is a book about true historical figures. I had the opportunity to read the galley and truly great in all ways until the author left the south for the continuation of her characters’ stories. I felt the storytelling then became a bit weak, like maybe the level of research on the north wasn’t the same as what the author knew of the south. Maybe I expected more because the story was based on real people, but when it got to the part of the Grimke sisters’ lives that we do know a bit about, the storytelling stopped. In my humble opinion, this was a true shame. Kidd is a great story teller, and she just seemed to throw in the towel with a whole section of the book left.

That said, Jackie Cooper at the Huffington Post has a completely different opinion. I agree with a great amount of what he says, I just don’t feel the book is as good as a whole as he does.

Some books make you feel the author was having a great time writing them. Other books are ponderous and make you feel the author labored mightily to produce them. Then there are the books that exude the passion of the author. Such a book is The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. This novel by the author of The Secret Life of Bees fairly bristles with intensity and each and every word in the story is a pulsating form of life upon the pages. This book is a sermon, a treatise, a pamphlet and a novel all wrapped up as one.

Kidd’s novel is based on the true story of the Grimke’ sisters of Charleston, South Carolina who lived during the 1800s. Sarah, the eldest sister, was presented with a slave girl of her own on her eleventh birthday. The girl’s name was Hetty Handful. Sarah knew at that young age slavery was wrong and she tried to refuse this gift but her domineering mother said no.

Check out the remainder of the article here:

Summary of the book:
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.

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