Review: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Title: The Invention of Wings
Author: Sue Monk Kidd
Pages: 369
Genre: Fiction; Historical
Publisher: Viking (Penguin Group)
Pub. Date: January 7, 2014

I don't think I was able to give this book quite the fair shake because for the majority of the book I just kept comparing it to The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom which I have yet to review but which I listed on the Best of 2013 list. I read that book back in August 2013 (and this in January 2014), but I couldn't get it and the characters out of my mind! The two stories were very similar. In The Invention of Wings, we follow the lives of Sarah Grimke from the time she is 11-years-old and the same aged slave, Hetty "Handful" Grimke. Sarah is gifted Handful as her own slave for her 11th birthday, but Sarah develops more of a friendship with Handful, even teaching her how to read and write. Sarah has ambitions of a career when she becomes an adult, and even as a child she recognizes that she does not agree with slavery.

Where this book differed from The Kitchen House for me was that the latter was focused much more on the relationship and the characters themselves. In the former, it seemed the first half to 3/4s of the book were focused on developing a timeline and glimpses of Sarah's ambitions and thoughts about slavery. It seemed as though this portion of the book was developing the foundation for the plot related to Sarah's abolitionist leanings as an adult. The Invention of Wings is based on the true story of Sarah Grimke who was an abolitionist and women's rights advocate in the 1800's, who fought for all this much to the chagrin of her family and that of the entire community and culture in Charleston, South Carolina. I was very interested in this part of the story, but because so much of the book was spent building up, I felt like this part was rushed through too fast. I did find it interesting to learn how even the Quakers and other abolitionists didn't necessarily believe in racial equality and how they often demonstrated hypocritical behaviors! It was also interesting the conflict between pursuing abolition of slavery at the same time as women's rights.

I really wish the focus of this book had been the part with Sarah as an adult. I initially rated this 3/5 after I finished the book, but then I realized I spent a lot of time afterwards thinking about the characters and wanting to return to the story. So I changed my rating to a 4. It turns out I did develop a connection to the characters. So, yes, this was in all a very good book. But I can't help feeling that if you are going to read a book somewhere within the area of this topic, I would go with The Kitchen House first!


rhapsodyinbooks said...

Weirdly, I didn't even know this was based on real people until the end!

nomadreader said...

I had mixed feelings about this one too. I thought it was incredibly slow to build, but I attributed that to how much I knew about Sarah's life and work before. Perhaps it was just the book itself!

Marlene Detierro said...

The relationship of a slave girl and two daughters of a wealthy plantation family is based on 2 historical sisters who led the abolitionist and feminist movements of the early 1800's. This is a moving insight into the time, the character, the survival and betrayal within a deeply rooted system of the deep south - which tendrils reached far into the north in ways most of us are unaware.

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