Early 19th century Charleston, SC, comes to life in this historical novel. Two compelling protagonists - one a slave, the other her reluctant young owner - come of age together, both trapped in their lives and longing for escape. This is an excellent choice for book groups with lots of great material for discussion.— From Emily A.
“Kidd gives us an outstanding view into the lives of two women whose reaction to slavery is the same - it must not continue. Loosely based on real-life abolitionist and women's rights activist Sarah Grimke, The Invention of Wings reveals how an intelligent woman of privilege was just as much a prisoner of her times as the slave girl, Hetty, who was given to Sarah as a birthday gift when she was 11 years old. Kidd juxtaposes the lives of these two women to show how each became an activist and how they eventually helped each other escape the claws of the South that wanted to destroy them. This is a splendid tale that will reaffirm the injustices of slavery and will open some eyes to how women were treated in the 1800s. As always, Kidd offers rich, well-developed characters that readers think about long after the book is closed.”
— Lynn Pellerito Riehl, Nicola's Books, Ann Arbor, MI
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.