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The Invention of Wings (2014)

by Sue Monk Kidd

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,7923142,104 (4.14)214
"The story follows Hetty "Handful" Grimke, a Charleston slave, and Sarah, the daughter of the wealthy Grimke family. The novel begins on Sarah's eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership over Handful, who is to be her handmaid. "The Invention of Wings" follows the next thirty-five years of their lives. Inspired in part by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke (a feminist, suffragist and, importantly, an abolitionist), Kidd allows herself to go beyond the record to flesh out the inner lives of all the characters, both real and imagined"--… (more)
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    The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (readysetgo)
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    The Help by Kathryn Stockett (readysetgo)
  3. 10
    Kindred by Octavia E. Butler (vwinsloe)
  4. 00
    The Book of Night Women by Marlon James (hoddybook)
    hoddybook: Both look at the horrors of slavery with an emphasis the womens lot.
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    Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald (arrwa)
    arrwa: Story of struggle and survival.
  6. 00
    The Wedding Gift by Marlen Suyapa Bodden (mybookshelf)
    mybookshelf: Both explore the relationship between a black slave girl and a privileged white girl.
  7. 00
    Property by Valerie Martin (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Both of these dramatic novels explore the troubled relationships between slaves and slave owners in the American South using strong female protagonists, as well as exploring the issues all women faced during this dark period in history.… (more)
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    Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth (vwinsloe)
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    Harriet and Isabella by Patricia O'Brien (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Strong female characters are central to these dramatic, emotional stories. Intertwining historical events with themes of slavery, women's rights, and family loyalties, both of these novels are told in alternating voices.
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    When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago (megk11676)
    megk11676: A memoir of a girl growing up in Puerto Rico and then in Brooklyn in the 1950's-1960's.

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» See also 214 mentions

English (307)  German (3)  All languages (310)
Showing 1-5 of 307 (next | show all)
The Invention of Wings is a work of historical fiction that re-imagines the lives of Sarah and Angelina Grimke, two female abolitionists. The story starts off with the gift of a slave, Handful, to 11 year old Sarah. The book tells the story in the voices of Sarah and Handful in alternating chapters. The book does a nice job of bringing the time period to life and highlighting the difficulties of having reservations about slavery whilst living in the South. The book really is as much about women's rights and the lack of options (beyond marriage) for women at the time. Sarah really struggles with her desire to do more with her life and the expectations that society and her parents have of her.

The Invention of Wings starts off strong, and I did really care about the characters who were slaves, but as the book progresses, I felt the story line weakens rather than builds. There are a lot of small details in the first half of the book that really brought the story to life, but the second half is more plot driven, and frankly I didn't think the plot was all that original or gripping. Gone with The Wind, it ain't. I think that's part of the problem with a book like this one . . .the stories of slavery have been told before and told in ways that you will never forget. This book was more about the development of a young female abolitionist, but by alternating the chapters, I think the author detracted from that story. The story of Handful was more moving and more compelling overall. Maybe because that was the part derived from the author's imagination completely whereas Sarah was a real person.

All in all, it was a decent read, but just a little ho hum for literary fiction. ( )
  Anita_Pomerantz | Mar 23, 2023 |
I have enjoyed both Sue Monk Kidd's essays and a previous book, so I was looking forward to this one. Being a novel based on real historical events, it is right up my alley. What a great story! ( )
  CarolHicksCase | Mar 12, 2023 |
What an amazing story. I could not put this one down. I loved how this story was told from two very different points of view. I loved following Sarah's and Handful's lives as they grew into fearless women who fought for what they believed in. They taught each other so much over the years and they never forgot each other even when it seemed like they were growing apart.

This entire novel shows how important the fight for abolition was and how powerful one voice can be. This story also touched on how trapped women were at that time even if they were born into a good family. The fearlessness of the Grimke sisters is so inspiring and powerful that I just couldn't get enough. When I found out that this story was based on the real Grimke sisters I was hooked. Two women fighting for abolition and women's rights in a time like that is just crazy to think about! It makes me want to do more with my life and to fight for the oppressed. There is still so much more room for improvement in our society. We need more people like the Grimke sisters.

Read this novel! ( )
  mtngrl85 | Jan 22, 2023 |
This was super on audio. Jenna Lamia and Adepero Oduye are fantastic as Sarah and Handful.
There's a lot to like about this book, but my favorite thing was that it was inspired by the lives of the abolitionist sisters Sarah and Angelina Grimke. I'd never heard of them before, and according to the author's notes at the end, they were famous for speaking out against slavery and in favor of women's rights. The book made me want to learn more about them.
I've never read a book by Sue Monk Kidd, and I probably never would have, if not for multiple friends recommending this book. The writing's great, especially the characterization of the two main characters. My one complaint is that the book really dragged in a couple of places. It was realistic pacing, considering Sarah's character, but it was still frustrating.
Mostly, though, it was an absorbing book with characters that inspired me. ( )
  Harks | Dec 17, 2022 |
I like to read historical fiction based on lesser known real people. This book is about sisters Sarah and Angelina Grimké, early abolitionists and feminists. Set in South Carolina in the early 1800s, the first two-thirds is a conventional examination of the evils of slavery. Sarah is “given” a slave, nicknamed Handful, as a gift, which, even at a young age, she sees as wrong.

The narrative portrays relentless cruelty and injustice. It is hard to read such grim material and I set the book aside a number of times. Toward the end, the narrative shifts to the sisters’ joining with the Quakers in the crusade against slavery. It is too bad this part of their story is limited to the last third of the book.

I listened to the audio book, competently read by Jenna Lamia (Sarah) and Adepero Oduye (Handful). I appreciated the author’s end note outlining what was real versus what she fabricated. I liked this book, but not quite as much as The Secret Life of Bees. ( )
  Castlelass | Oct 30, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 307 (next | show all)
Both Handful and Sarah are admirable characters, though rather disappointingly so. Improbable allies are most engaging when they make life hard for each other and generally it takes them a while to find their common pulse. But Sarah empathizes so completely with Handful from the very beginning that we never get to doubt their innate sisterhood. While their identities as mistress and slave imply conflict, it’s not a conflict played out between them. Handful’s rich resentment is rarely directed at Sarah. How could it be? The actual Sarah Grimké may have been as earnest and honorable as she is here, but a little less righteousness might have furnished this story with a wider wingspan.
added by ozzer | editNew York Times, SUZANNE BERNE (Jan 24, 2014)

» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kidd, Sue Monkprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lamia, JennaReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mania, AstridÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Sandy Kidd
with all my love
First words
There was a time in Africa the people could fly.
The truth, she said, is that every girl must have ambition knocked out of her for her own good. You are unusual only in your determination to fight what is inevitable. You resisted and so it came to this, to being broken like a horse.
Life is arranged against us, Sarah. And it's brutally worse for Handful and her mother and sister. We're all yearning for a wedge of sky, aren't we? I suspect God plants these yearnings in us so we'll at least try and change the course of things.
"Our slaves were happy," she would boast.  It never occurred to her their gaiety wasn't contentment, but survival.
I have one mind for the master to see.  I have another mind for what I know is me.
Color prejudice is at the bottom of everything.  If it's not fixed, the plight of the Negro will continue long after abolition.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English


"The story follows Hetty "Handful" Grimke, a Charleston slave, and Sarah, the daughter of the wealthy Grimke family. The novel begins on Sarah's eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership over Handful, who is to be her handmaid. "The Invention of Wings" follows the next thirty-five years of their lives. Inspired in part by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke (a feminist, suffragist and, importantly, an abolitionist), Kidd allows herself to go beyond the record to flesh out the inner lives of all the characters, both real and imagined"--

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Book description
Haiku summary
Two girls - pampered, slave
Both fighting to change their lives
They escape their bonds

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