Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Invention of Wings

The Invention of Wings
Sue Monk Kidd

Published January 2014

First Sentence
"There was a time in Africa the people could fly."

Publisher's Description:

Writing at the height of her narrative and imaginative gifts, Sue Monk Kidd presents a masterpiece of hope, daring, the quest for freedom, and the desire to have a voice in the world. 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.

Dear Reader,

Sue Monk Kidd really knows how to tell a beautiful and tragic story filled historical elements. The Invention of Wings is about so many things, mostly slavery and the abolition movement. The main characters are Sarah Grimke, who is born from a well-off family with many slaves, and Handful, the slave given to Sarah on her eleventh birthday. Sarah is a little different from her siblings because she has aspirations of becoming a Lawyer like her father and also has a distaste for owning slaves. When she is given a slave for her birthday, Handful, you start to notice how different she really is when she tries to free her slave but then is forced to hand her back when freeing her fails. The book goes back and forth between Sarah and Handful, giving the reader a view into both eyes. Sarah ends up going North to join the Quakers because of their abolitionist views of slavery. Handful gets left behind with Sarah's tough mother and her sister, Angelina, who also ends up siding with her sister and the abolition movement.

Kidd really knows how to bring you back in time and gives you a glimpse into how it must feel to be a slave or to have lived with slaves. For example, she has this line that compares the sound of whipping sails on a ship to a slave being beaten, "The Sails would go off like whips cracking and all us would listen to see was it some slave getting flogged in a neighbor-yard or was it ships making ready to leave. You found out when the screams started up or not." How terrible is that, but eye opening. Sometimes you need to read terrible things, especially when they hold the key to changing things in the future. We can't run away from the past, we must embrace it so we learn how to keep it from happening again. I'm sure this is a quote from somewhere that I've regurgitated, but it tells the truth. Another part of the book I thought Kidd nailed was the idea that God and religion wanted people to own slaves. This brings up quite a large argument of how many people construe the bible to mean what they want. If something isn't clear and can have more than one meaning, should we take it to our hearts so quickly? I don't want to get into anything too much, because I have my own opinions on this but I thought it was important to bring up.

We also get to see into the life of a slave because Kidd writes Handful's part with such thoughtfulness. Little but big details, like when Handful looks at the books left in Sarah's room and has this reaction, "I sat at her desk and turned one page after another, staring at what looked like bits and pieces of black lace laid cross the paper." How fantastic is that detail! I'm sure that's exactly what words on paper looks to some who's illiterate. I even like how words on paper look beautiful, even without the connotation, very mysterious and tempting to uncover the secrets hidden within. It's small details like this that make Sue Monk Kidd a great writer, and one to seek out.

You might be thinking, this is another book on slavery and abolition... but this one is unique because Kidd did her research. She has taken two sisters from history, they actually existed, and plopped them into this beautifully written book. Sarah and Angelina were actual abolitionists who not only sparked the movement with pamphlets and talks, but also sparked the debate for equality among the sexes. What courage these two women had! What amazing people this Author picked to include in her story. I'll conclude this review with a picture of the Grimke girls and some of their famous quotes.

Happy Reading,

P.S. - The one on the left is Sarah, the one on the right is Angelina.

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