Book Review: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (4/5)

26 Jul

I tried to read one of Kidd’s books in high school and couldn’t finish it. Needless to say, when one of her titles was chosen for my book club, I wasn’t thrilled. I was late starting the book because of a book before this that was hard to get through, and I realized on Friday that my group was meeting Monday. Going out-of-town for a wedding over the weekend was complicating things. Thankfully, I have an amazing husband who not only drove while I read, but read out loud to me while I drove. I finished it somewhere in Ohio on our way home.

Cover image via Goodreads

Cover image via Goodreads

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Summary from Goodreads:

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.

I was pleasantly surprised by this novel. The writing and topic grabbed me from the beginning. Except for a few middle grade books in grade school, I haven’t read a book about American slavery in a long time. Sarah was a unique voice to contrast with Handful and I liked Kidd’s use of the two viewpoints. There were times when I had to put this novel down because I was so bothered by the scenes of abuse I don’t do well with violent movies and books get into my head even more.

Sarah was great. I didn’t know until someone mentioned it on WWW Wednesday that Sarah Grimke was a real person. I think Kidd did a great amount of research into this woman and her wonderful life. The author’s note shows her use of diaries, letters, and newspapers to gather information about the Grimkes’ lives. I liked how Kidd detailed her stutter and her lifelong struggle to overcome it. That made her very human.

Sarah was my favorite character. That’s not to say anything against Nina or Handful, but I saw the greatest change in Sarah through the book. She found her own voice, literally and figuratively, and became the person she’d always wanted to be. The influence she had on Nina and Handful was wonderful and though she was at some times timid, she was also fearless.

I related to Sarah, which is probably why I liked her best. There are many things that scare me and I try to act fearless like Sarah did. I try not to be afraid before speaking in public or a race. I try to stay strong and be consistent with what I believe in. I sometimes feel like I’m meant to be heard and it can be hard to carry forward but having someone (like Handful) to push me forward and remind me is what can get me through. I respected her persistence.

Sue Monk Kidd Image via Actionable Books

Sue Monk Kidd
Image via Actionable Books

I don’t want to give away too much, but I thought the ending was just perfect. I loved it. Sarah and Handful were both in their elements and their relationship, like Handful says, it’s love but it’s something strong and I thought the ending of the book portrayed that well.

Hearing about Handful’s accident at the Work House was really hard for me. Trying to picture that contraption made me cringe and the imagery of the other woman with a baby and Handful falling were hard. The mother’s little remorse made it even worse. I couldn’t imagine feeling that way toward another human.


Doing the right thing is not always easy. Sarah knew it wasn’t going to be simple, but she pushed forward in a lot of things such as her ministry study, touring, and her beliefs. A lot of other people gave up (Judge Grimke) or tried to soften their message to be more palatable. Sarah faced a lot of hardships for her beliefs. She had to leave Israel’s house and wouldn’t return to it because of her dedication to the ministry. She was told never to return to her mother because of her abolitionist beliefs. Sarah did all of this anyway because she was strong and stood up to her values.

Writer’s Takeaway: I love the authors note for historical fiction books. Kidd was candid about who she made up, who was real, and what she changed. I think as a historical fiction writer, you have to make some stuff up, change some things, and cut some things. I think Kidd did a great job with this. She added Handful almost completely and made a great character of her. I don’t think her other edits took the story too far from its roots and I really applaud her for the novel and the story of Sarah.

Enjoyable read that made reading half the book in three days no chore at all. Four out of Five Stars.

This book fulfills the 1800s for my When Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

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Related Posts:
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The Invention of Wings – Sue Monk Kidd | Turn The Page Books
book review: the invention of wings | writeamuck
Book Club Gals Read The Invention of Wings | A Writer of History

6 Responses to “Book Review: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (4/5)”

  1. luvtoread July 26, 2016 at 10:06 PM #

    I really enjoyed this book! We read it for our book club, and we had a great discussion about it. I had never heard of the Grimke sisters until reading this book!


    • Sam July 26, 2016 at 10:12 PM #

      Same! My book club met Monday night and we all loved it. I have a post going up Thursday about it. Happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. anovelglimpse July 27, 2016 at 11:11 AM #

    This one sounds truly interesting! I’m happy you enjoyed it. I might have to read it if I see it at the library.


    • Sam July 27, 2016 at 7:25 PM #

      I hope you do, I really liked the historical setting and characters contrasted with Handful. Happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yvo July 27, 2016 at 8:44 PM #

    Great review! You definitely made me want to try to geta copy soon now… It’s been a while since I last read a book about American slavery and this one sounds truly intriguing.


    • Sam July 27, 2016 at 8:51 PM #

      It was rally interesting and well researched. I never would have known about these women. Happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person

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