Book Review: The Invention of Wings

The Invention of Wings
Published By: Penguin Books
Publication Date: May 5, 2015 (Paperback Edition)
Page Count: 384
Source: Kindly Provided by Publisher
Audience: Adult - Historical Fiction

The Invention of Wings is a historical fiction book based on the real life of Sarah Grimke and her sister, Angelina. At the age of 11, Sarah is given a slave for her birthday. She is appalled at the notion of owning a slave and tries to set her free. This is just of the beginning of her abolitionist career. Sarah also longs to be an attorney, a profession which is unavailable to her because she is a woman. 

 Hetty "Handful" Grimke is the slave given to Sarah. Through her mother Charlotte, Handful discovers there is a world beyond the Grimke home and she yearns to discover what is out there. 

Sarah and Handful develop an interesting relationship that evolves through several stages in the book. They might have been friends as children, but the friendship stage didn't last too long. The book goes back and forth between Sarah and Handful as we see the different struggles and life changing events each of them goes through. 

 I did not realize this book was based on a true story until I finished the book and read the Author's Note at the end. It was wonderful to know that these women really existed! Sarah and Angelina did amazing things both for the abolitionist movement and for women's rights. 

 Slavery is a difficult topic for me to read about. However, I found this book intriguing and it kept my attention throughout. It is not a fast paced book, but it is well written and very well researched. Obviously, many parts are fiction, but I thought the two were seamlessly pieced together. 

 The Invention of Wings is a wonderful book that made me grateful for those who worked so hard to abolish slavery, and to fight for the rights of women. I highly recommend it!

From the celebrated author of The Secret Life of Bees, a New York Times bestselling novel about two unforgettable American women.

Writing at the height of her narrative and imaginative gifts, Sue Monk Kidd presents a masterpiece of hope, daring, the quest for freedom, and the desire to have a voice in the world.   

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.   

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