Published by Viking on January, 2014
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Source: complimentary review copy
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I have been a fan of Sue Monk Kidd since reading The Secret Life of Bees for my book club ten years ago. I’m one of those readers who, once I fall in love with a book, I will continue to read everything that author has ever written ~ which I did. The Mermaid Chair left me wanting ~ I was expecting another Lily Owens but got marital strife instead. The Dance of the Dissident Daughter was fabulous and gave me a bit of background into how/why the spiritual fundamentals of The Secret Life of Bees came about.
So. . .going into The Invention of Wings I was not certain what to expect. It was my first read of 2014 as I wanted something with meat. . .something a bit profound. What I got was so much more.
We follow the lives of Sarah Grimke and Hetty “Handful” Grimke beginning in late 1803. Sarah is the daughter of a Charleston Judge, cotton-farmer and slave holder with dreams of following in her older brother’s footsteps and becoming the first female lawyer. Hetty, known as “Handful” for that very reason, is the daughter of a well-known seamstress and slave in the Grimke household. On Sarah’s 11th birthday she is given Handful as her own personal maid of which she refuses and tries to give her back. Sarah is told to shape up and act like a person of her station. Since a traumatic event at the age of four where Sarah witnessed a slave being cruelly beaten, she has a life-long stutter and quite strong beliefs against slavery.
There was a time in Africa the people could fly. Mauma told me this one night when I was ten years old. She said “Handful, your granny-mauma saw it for herself. She say they flew over trees and clouds. She say they flew like blackbirds. When we came here, we left that magic behind.
The girls become fast friends, sharing confidences, tea and adventures until it’s time for Sarah to enter Charleston society and snag herself a husband. Handful and Sarah remain friends but at a distance ~ Sarah is frustrated with her role of being “owned” by her father and then a husband; Handful did not appreciate the irony of only being considered 3/4 of a person and being owned completely. Told in the alternating voices of Handful and Sarah we get the first-person perspective of being held back, held down ~ either by slavery or by virtue of gender.
All I ask of our brethren is that they will take their feet from off our necks.
Based on the real-life Grimke sisters, pioneers of women’s rights and equality, The Invention of Wings is a powerful novel of finding freedom, challenging the status quo and the horrific realities of being a slave in the early 1800’s. Profound, full of irony and women’s history, a novel that both makes you thankful to be a woman in 2014 and an encouragement to the power of one. . .one person can make a difference. Y’all know how I love those kinds of novels!
If you don’t read anything else this year, read The Invention of Wings. It’s the latest selection for Oprah’s Book Club, hopeFULL, inspiring, tragic, beautiful and an absolute must-read. It’s been five years since we’ve had a new release from Sue Monk Kidd. She knocked it out of the park with this one.
Word of Caution: Graphic abuse of slaves.