Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Book Review and Giveaway: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Pages: 384
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: January 7, 2014
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "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."
Sarah Grimke lives in Charleston in the early 19th century and from the outside, she appears to have it all.  Her father is a big wig in politics and in turn, her family has a lot of respect amongst the community. It's the time of slavery and Sarah's parents have many slaves, which has always made Sarah uncomfortable even at a young age as she doesn't fully support slavery like the other members of her family. On her eleventh birthday, she is "gifted" a slave of her own: Hetty or "Handful," as her mother likes to call her. She is the daughter of Charlotte, an expert seamstress, with big plans.  Sarah explains to her parents that she would rather not own a slave, but they force her.  Sarah hopes for a bright future for herself. She wants to be a lawyer (despite her speech impediment that comes and goes) and you can often find her studying her father's books.  Her father and brothers tell her there is no way a woman can become a lawyer and after some time, they ban her from their father's library. This destroys Sarah, but she looks to find other ways to resist.  She forms a close friendship with Hetty and truly realizes the evils of slavery. She secretly teaches Hetty to read, even though it's against the law, and they form an unlikely friendship. Sarah and Hetty have more in common than they thought as they are both in a prison of some sort. Hetty is bound by the chains of slavery and Sarah is stuck in a patriarchal prison where she has little to no rights herself.  Sue Monk Kidd's The Invention of Wings is a sweeping novel that examines not only the cruelty of slavery, but also how women were also suppressed during this time in history, but thankfully both women eventually find their wings and fly.

I loved the character of Sarah from the beginning in The Invention of Wings. She was truly a non-conformist living in an oppressive household. Her father showed signs of being a decent human being from time to time, but her mother was truly vile. I was desperately hoping Sarah would find a way out of that house, because otherwise she would be under her rule till the day she dies. She would never achieve her full potential with her mother's tyrannical cloud hanging over her.  Thankfully, Sarah does find a way to "resist," but after much heartache.

Sarah has a much younger sister, Angelina, or Nina. She sort of takes her under her wing and they form a close bond. Nina starts to feel the same way about slavery as Sarah, much to their mother's chagrin.  Also, Nina plays a prominent role in the story as she becomes one of Sarah's only allies within the family. I absolutely loved their loyal friendship in The Invention of Wings.

Hetty is an incredible character as well. Her relationship with her mother was absolutely beautiful and I desperately wanted so much more for her. Every time Hetty would go through some hardship, I was aching along side of her. Kidd did a brilliant job of showcasing the horrible and inhumane treatment of slaves. It really made me disgusted and my heart broke for Hetty and her mother. However, these two women were strong. Very strong. I loved how Kidd demonstrated that despite Hetty's dire situation, she still remained hopeful, strong, and kept the faith that one day she would be away from these terrible bonds of slavery.

The Invention of Wings is written beautifully. The chapters alternate between Sarah and Hetty's point of view which was done masterfully. I loved how it juxtaposed both women's plights. It illustrated Sarah's "prison" in the patriarchal society and then demonstrated Hetty's "prison" in the unjust world of slavery in Charleston.

The setting was expertly written as well. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the story took us to outside Philadelphia, which is where I live. It was eye-opening to learn a bit more about my neighborhood, the Quaker community, and the important figures in history that lived where I often find myself driving past on a daily basis.  How did I not know all of this?

Which leads me to the fact that The Invention of Wings is based on the true story of Sarah and Angelina Grimke who were famous abolitionist and suffragist sisters. I was blown away. I had no idea it was based on two actual people and I was completely moved by this. This simple fact made the story even more powerful.

The paperback edition of The Invention of Wings is coming out this month and it would be the perfect addition to your beach bag, especially if you like a smart read while on vacation.  Thanks to Penguin, I am hosting a giveaway for a paperback copy of this book to one lucky US reader.  The deadline is May 22, 2015 and please refer to my giveaway rules.  If you have a book club, this would be a perfect book to discuss. If so, check out the new book club kit featuring an interview with the author, background on the book, recipes and more.

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  1. I loved this book and agree that it would be great for book discussion groups. How cool that it is partly set where you live. I am glad that the author chose to highlight a real person that might otherwise have been forgotten by history. I certainly hadn't heard of Sarah Grimke or her sister before I picked up the book. I found the historical details to be fascinating. Great review!

    1. Me too. I was completely blown away that it was based on a real person....loved that aspect of the book. I found it to be fascinating as well, Christina! Such a great historical read. I think it would make a great movie, too. Thanks for visiting!

  2. This sounds like one of those reads that's going to infuriate me to know end - but in an good "I'm so involved in this story" kind of way:) I'm already in love with Sarah and Hetty, and I love it even more that this was based on a true story. Definitely adding this to the list and am going to recommend to my mother in law for her book club:)

    1. Yes, there were definitely some injustices in the book that really frustrated me, but it was so cool to know that it was based on real people! It would be perfect for a book club. Thanks for visiting, Jenny!

  3. Reading this gave me chills, Christina; I loved The Secret Life of Bees and The Mermaid Chair and I've been wanting to read this one, too; I'm so glad to hear that you enjoyed it. I had no idea this one had been out since January...good grief! I'm way behind - ha! Thanks so much for the giveaway and excellent review!

    1. I have been dying to read The Secret Life of Bees! I have heard great things. If you like Sue Monk Kidd's style, then you'll definitely love this one, Tara. Thanks for visiting!

  4. Every time I see this book in my bookstore, the cover draws me in. I do like historical fiction, but I know this one is the type where I have to invest the time to read. I would have to agree with you, though. It truly is a great vacation read.

    1. I hope you get to read it soon, Joy! If you like historical fiction, it is definitely worth your time. Thanks for dropping by!


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