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The Invention of Wings (2014)
by Sue Monk Kidd
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Historical Fiction (117)
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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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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"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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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)813.6Literature English (North America) American fiction 21st Century
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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. ( )