The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Publication Date: January 2014
Borrowed library copy from St. Charles City County Library
I said, “My body might be a slave, but not my mind. For you, it’s the other way round.” -Hetty “Handful” Grimké
The Invention of Wings tells the story of the intertwined lives of Sarah Grimké and her personal servant, Hetty also referred to throughout the story as “Handful.” Handful is given to Sarah on her eleventh birthday even though Sarah tries to decline the gift. Living in the Deep South in the city of Charleston, the girls live their early lives in an unconventional manner for the time. Sarah is not comfortable with a personal slave and Handful’s life had been shaped by a defiant, strong mother.
Sarah battles many trying issues, a speech impediment, unconventional looks, her desire to be educated, and men, over the course of her younger years. However as she grows up and matures, Sarah comes to term with her life and strives toward making it an acceptable existence with which she can live. She raises her younger sister, Angelina, primarily on her own and the girl turns out to be very similar in nature to Sarah. Angelina has a different life, partially due to her beauty and her outspoken ways.
Together the girls take on society, both Northern and Southern, to become early trailblazers in the movements of women’s rights and abolition. Along with their efforts at educating society, the girls also manage to help Handful and her sister, Sky, escape Charleston and the life of slavery they have always known.
The story delves into the harsh aspects of slavery as well as emphasizing the difference between urban and rural slaves. Although not covered in a great deal of specific detail, the abolitionist movement and the involvement of the Quaker church with the movement is brought to light. The historical element is interesting and detailed very thoroughly at the end the novel. Be sure and read the author’s notes.
This book starts out very slowly. I had to read approximately one third of the way through the book before it really captivated my interest and started pulling me along. The book has a tendency initially to read like many other slave and mistress stories. The novel does differentiate itself the farther along you get into the story. An interesting read, but not one I would recommend for people that are not true enthusiasts of detailed historic fiction!