Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

genre: historical fiction

Sarah is the daughter of a fine Southern Gentleman Lawyer.

Hetty (or Handful, which she was named by her mauma) is a slave.

Their home is in Charleston, at a time when slave-owning is a white man's right and the law will defend that slave-owning-man and that practice to the death.

As soon as she is old enough to be aware, Sarah is uncomfortable with slavery.  Soon, that discomfort turns into something deeper - and even as a child, she knows that Handful is a person just like she is.  And that keeping her as a slave is wrong.

While Handful's life as a slave is harsh and frightening, there is comfort to be found with her mauma, a strong and capable woman who knows exactly how she feels about slavery as well.  She teaches Handful that her soul cannot be owned and with her needle and thread she also teaches her the history of her people.

This book is the story of real life suffragette and abolitionist Sarah Grimke.  I was so glad that my sister in law told me that it was based on the life of a real woman, it made the story that much more meaningful.  The writing is lyrical and nuanced - told from the point of view of these two women, we are forced to see how trapped one can be by one's society.  I loved the motif of the quilt that Handful's mauma made, I loved Sarah's journey to figure out how a woman can make a place to be something other than a wife and mother.  I loved to watch her passion ignite and her relationship with her sister was powerful.

When you read books about slavery such as this one, when it is portrayed in all its raw ugliness and is given a face and name and a reality - a one singular person who lived all her life unable to do what she wanted for fear of being beaten or worse, it makes you feel actually sick.  It makes me hope that I would've been as brave as Sarah and other women and men who stood up to a society that believed that it was okay to own a person.

I was really engaged by this pre-Civil War story.  As I followed Sarah up and down the East Coast, trying to figure out who she was and what she was brave enough to stand for, I began to care for her and believe in her.   I love knowing that she really was one of the forerunners of the feminist and abolitionist movements.

Great read.

note: if you're interested in the content of the books I read, please go to


Melissa Mc said...

One of my favorites this year.

bermudaonion said...

I agree - this was a great read!

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