The Invention of Wings



The Invention of Wings Coverby Sue Monk Kidd
January 7, 2014
Unabridged AUdiobook from Penguin Audio
Read by: Jenna Lamia
Read by: Adepero Oduye
Afterword read by: Sue Monk Kidd

Published by Viking/Penguin Publishing Group
Hard COver and E-Book384 pages
ISBN: 13: 9780143121701

Blogger Purchase of the audiobook.  No remuneration was exchanged (other than my payment for the book) and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.


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 Grimkes’ 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.

Sue Monk Kidd’s sweeping new novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday in 1803, when she is given ownership of ten-year-old Handful, who is to be her waiting maid. 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 in part 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 search for something better, and Charlotte’s lover, Denmark Vesey, a charismatic free black man who is planning insurrection.

This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at one of the most devastating wounds in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.


Links Blue Horizontal




Many buying options available at author’s and publisher’s websites.


My Take Oblong
Some works of literary fiction think very highly of themselves when they should be humble and others, like this wonderful novel are humble when they should be exalted.

My paltry skills are unequal to describing how exellent and well written this is. And, the audiobook production and narration and the two narrators have the characters spot on. And since the story is told in their voices there is no issue about how the other characters are voiced.

Have you ever seen someone deny an argument so logical that you were unable to believe that person was actually capable of breathing? That is how I saw the purity of of Sarah’s story.  She sees both the moral wrong of slavery and of the position of women, and she sees the illogical nature of slavery based on the religious beliefs espoused by most of the country at the time.  She and her sister extrapolate the treatment of women as wrong as well.    The point is made that Sarah is powerless and limited but not in the same way that Handful is.

What we see with Handful, her mother and other slaves is trying to hang on to a personal identity when all of the world seems designed to strip you of your identity as well as your free will.

Women like Sarah lived in well-appointed, gilded cages and Handful and other slaves live in iron cages. Not terribly well appointed and without any choice in it.  It was truly disgusting to read about what we know, intellectually to be true.  And, Sue Monk Kidd doesn’t seem to romanticize the story, but it probably is not described as horribly as it was.

How bizarre to have a way of life dependent on “this peculiar instititution.” And, what is more, to know how wrong it is and not to take a stand against it beccause it threatens one’s comfort to do so.

And then I think what about my own life?  What do I do or buy that is harmful to people somewhere?

Sarah gives up all the expectations of her gentle upbringing to stand her ground against what is wrong. She is threatened, even by those who hate slavery but do not think a woman should be allowed oration with an audience including men!  Imagine standing against everything and everyone you grew up with.

And, it is amazing that not only had I never heard of her, Sue MOnk Kidd had not and she lived in Charleston. In her afterword Kidd describes that.

Sarah is a historical figure while Handful is somewhere between historical and fictional.  But her story, her absolutely desperate hunger for freedom and her taking it in small acts of defiance are beyond stirring. It is amazing how much I felt for each character.

This is a must read book for any one who thinks about rights, and equality, add especially for women. I am floored and humbled, stirred and disquieted.  Read it.