Saturday, March 21, 2015

Book of the Month - March 2015: The Invention of Wings

I made a promise to myself (aka New Year's Resolution) to read at least one good book each month and blog about it.

This month, I chose The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd.  I'd loved this author's first best-selling novel, The Secret Life of Bees, and I generally enjoy Oprah's book choices, so when I saw a large print edition at the library, I decided to make it my book of the month for March 2015.

The book is one of those rare reads that will leave a haunting, lasting impression -- like Gone With the Wind or Dr. Zhivago or The Thorn Birds, to name a few.

The book is historical fiction, based on the story of two real-life abolitionists and suffragettes, Sarah and Angelina Grimke.   According to historical accounts, Sarah was given a 10-year-old slave girl, Hetty aka Handful, as a present for her 11th birthday.  The two became friends, and Sarah taught Hetty to read.  The real Hetty was punished so severely, she died shortly after her beating.  But in the fictionalized account, Hetty/Handful lives another 35 years. 

The book is written in sections -- slices of time between 1803 and 1838, and it is set mostly in Charleston, South Carolina.  First person narratives alternate between Sarah and Handful.   Although their lives appear on the surface to be vastly different, the author manages to find striking parallels as she weaves common threads through the tapestry of the book.   Both were enslaved in some way by societal restrictions.  Both suffered abuse.  Handful and her mother, a gifted seamstress slave named Charlotte, were physically and verbally abused. Sarah suffered emotional abuse which caused the eloquent abolitionist to stutter as a child. 

As a sewist, I was intrigued by the vivid descriptions of the clothes and household linens hand sewn by Charlotte, and later Handful, and by the story quilt constructed by Charlotte, which combined African legends and her real life events.  Little black triangles sewn on Charlotte's and Handful's quilts symbolized the urge to fly away.

Both Sarah and Handful are on a lifelong quest for freedom and equality.  Both find their voices, and their metaphorical wings, but they put themselves in great danger to do so.

I found this to be a captivating read, and I would highly recommend it.

The Invention of Wings
Sue Monk Kidd
Viking (2014)
ISBN-10:  0670024783
ISBN-13:  978-0670029780



  1. That really sounds like a good book, and one I'd like to read. I'm going to look for it at the library.

  2. I'm glad you're finding time to do some reading during this most busy time of year!

  3. I just paid the fine---I read a little each night before I go to sleep (most nights).

  4. I've read one of her other books. Traveling with Pomegranates, I think it was? It was good,but definitely very thoughtful. I usually read to get away from real life, and parts of the book reminded me a little too much of my life at the time! Still, a good book.

    1. Yes. One of my local friends (retired librarian) commented that her books can be a bit "dark." I'd say light and dark. (Ying and yang?) But definitely not an escapist read.

  5. Thanks for a terrific review. This book is on my reading list.