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Book Club Reflection: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

28 Jul

It’s been a long time since my book club almost universally agreed on a book. We don’t often all like one and we’re usually an even split. I’ll have to remember this book as the one that we all agreed on. We all loved Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings.

We heard they’re making this into a movie (this is listed as ‘In Development’ on IMdB). One of our members was in Charleston a few weeks ago and said they’re going to film it at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens in Charleston. She said another interesting thing she saw in Charleston was The Citadel, a public military college. She said the Citadel was established to hush the slave rebellion, a fact I could not find on the academy’s website.

The title had a few different meanings to our group. Sarah and Nina are described as the wings at one point but to us, there was a lot more reference to flying on Handful’s side. Her mother talked about the slaves flying away to their freedom which made it to the story quilt. Handful and Charlotte’s favorite pattern was supposed to resemble blackbirds and they would put bird’s feathers inside of the quilts. Wings let someone fly away to freedom

Many liked Handful more than the Grimke sisters. Kidd made up her character and was able to do a lot more with her outside the restrictions of historical accuracy. She was admirable and we liked her direct voice. Kidd used different styles for her characters well. Handful was also very brave. If we’d been stuck in her situation, it was hard for many of us to say we’d do the same thing and rebel the way Handful did.

It seems I was one of few who was surprised Charlotte would return to the Grimke’s. She escaped slavery only to return to it and that shocked me. Others pointed out that she wanted to be back with her daughter and she wanted Handful and Sky to have each other so they could escape. We figured they escaped about 90 miles from the plantation they’d been on to reach Charleston which is incredible with no food or directions.

Someone in our group asked if the church Vesey founded and where Handful was arrested was the same one that was the site of a deadly hate crime last summer. Unfortunately, it was: Emanuel A.M.E. Church.

Sarah remarks that the Graveyard of Failed Hope is an all-female establishment. It’s easy to point out times when the things she wanted were denied to her because of her sex. It must have been hard to want to be a lawyer and see her brother become a lawyer when he didn’t want it. Ironically, he wanted to be a minister and she studied for years to be one. That was not lost on us!

Sarah had her own rebellion, starting with her multiple religious conversions. We found it interesting that one of the most attractive things about Quakerism for her was their anti-slavery beliefs but that they still had a separate bench for blacks. Before Sarah was a Quaker, when she was still Anglican, we loved that she taught Handful and the slave children to read. Kidd explains in her author’s note that this really happened which makes it all the better.

Many of us were surprised with how close abolition and women’s suffrage were tied together. Maybe it did split the issue, but it also seems very necessary when explained through the Grimke’s story. Lucretia Mott is better known as a suffragette than an abolitionist so it was interesting to see her in this first role.

Sarah and Nina had a great relationship. It was very motherly since Sarah took a large part in Nina’s upbringing. Mrs. Grimke was very cruel and Mary took after her mother. We’re glad Sarah taught Nina to be kind. Mary was uneducated and didn’t read and question things so it seems she learned from her mother and all she learned was cruelty.

I picked the book for next month and I have a bad history of picking books everyone likes. Maybe I’ll hit a home run with this one, but not everyone likes John Irving as much as I do.

Until next time, write on.

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