The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

The Invention of WingsI knew the author so I wanted to check this book out.

Stats: I listened to the audio book, 12 discs, narrated by Jenna Lamina (Sarah) and Adepero Oduye (Handful), Published January 2014, Print is 384 pages.

Blurb: 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.

What I liked: I didn’t read the blurb before I listened to the book, so I didn’t know it was based on real people, but as the story went on, it was a bit longer than it seemed like it needed to be, so it occurred to me that is was probably based on real people. I didn’t know who until the end, where Kidd tells of some of the background information, which I really enjoyed. Handful – the made-up character – was a bit more interesting than her white counterpart – Sarah – until Sarah finally gets away from home and starts to forge her own path. Sarah and her sister were very before their time: speaking for abolition and women’s right in the early to mid-1800s. The beginning does give you a good feel for life in Charleston at that time. Lamia and Oduye do a good job narrating.

What I didn’t like: The beginning was a bit slow and overall a bit long, but if you can make it past those things, it’s an interesting story, made more so by knowing it is based on a couple real women.

Rating: 4/5

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