The Invention of Wings
By Sue Monk Kidd
(Viking Books, Hardcover, 9780670024780, 373pp.)
Publication Date: January 7, 2014
List Price: $27.95*
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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 and it is now the newest Oprah's Book Club 2.0 selection.
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.
Sue Monk Kidd, the author of the best-selling The Secret Life of Bees, takes on both slavery and feminism in her novel The Invention of Wings. It's a story told by two women: Hetty, a slave, seeks her freedom, while Sarah, her reluctant owner, rebels against her family to become an abolitionist. More at NPR.org
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Praise for The Invention of Wings
“A remarkable novel that heightened my sense of what it meant to be a woman - slave or free. . .will resonate with anyone who has ever struggled to find her power and her voice. . .Sue Monk Kidd has written a conversation changer. It is impossible to read this book and not come away thinking differently about our status as women and about all the unsung heroines who played a role in getting us to where we are."—Oprah Winfrey, O The Oprah Magazine
“Alternating between Sarah’s and Handful’s contrasting perspectives on their oddly conjoined worlds allows Kidd to generate unstoppable narrative momentum as she explores the troubled terrain that lies between white and black women in a slaveholding society. . ..the novel’s language can be as exhilarating as its powerful story. . .by humanizing these formidable women, The Invention of Wings furthers our essential understanding of what has happened among us as Americans – and why it still matters.”—Margaret Wrinkle, The Washington Post
“Potent. . .Tells a searing and soaring story of two women bound together as mistress and slave. . .a beautifully written book about the awe-inspiring resilience of America’s enslaved people. It’s a provocative reminder of why slavery’s wounds still scar the country 250 years later.”—Patty Rhule, USA Today
“[An] epic, affecting tale.”—Andrea Walker, People
“Masterful. . .in short, provocative chapters we step into the lives of these amazingly brave and stalwart women. . .Wings is a story about empowering women to change the world. . .with historical bedrock as her foundation for a compelling narrative, Kidd serves up a remarkable novel about finding your voice.” —Carol Memmott, The Chicago Tribune
“The Invention of Wings isn’t just the story of a friendship that defies an oppressive society. . .it’s a much more satisfying story of two people discovering together that their lives are worth the fight.”—Jodi Walker, Entertainment Weekly
“If this isn’t an American classic-to-be, I don’t know what is. . .even after only a few dozen pages, I could tell that this would be one of the best books of 2014. . .this book is as close to perfect as any I’ve ever read.” —Joy Tipping, The Dallas Morning News
“A searing historical novel. . .these two women’s relationship with each other grows more complex while the culture shape-shifts around them. Their bold individual requests for independence are explored by Kidd in exquisitely nuanced language that makes this book a page turner in the most resonant and satisfying of ways.”—More