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.
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.
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.
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd | CravenWild
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