The Invention of Wings

By Sue Monk Kidd,

Book cover of The Invention of Wings

Book description

From the celebrated author of The Secret Life of Bees and the forthcoming novel The Book of Longings, a 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…

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Why read it?

7 authors picked The Invention of Wings as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

This masterpiece is a story of the Grimké sisters, Sarah and Angelina—path-breakers in the abolitionist and women’s rights movements—interwoven with the story of Hetty, a young slave girl given to Sarah on her 11th birthday.

Hetty and Sarah find their way through the prejudice and barriers of a patriarchal society that views them as less than. Both learn to soar.

This book affected me deeply as a writer. Kidd is simply a master of words. But the story itself stripped away my naivety about what our society would look like had these women not taken on the patriarchal system. It…

From T.K.'s list on history’s remarkable women.

Sue Monk Kidd’s book, The Invention of Wings, blends fact and fiction in this pre-Civil War story of two young women. I was fascinated by reading chapters that alternated between Sarah Grimke, a historical character, representing South Carolina’s aristocracy and Hetty, called “Handful,” who is given as an enslaved maid to Sarah on her eleventh birthday. Sarah’s conscience won’t allow this division to endure. I loved the memorable scene where the two girls escape through a hatch in the roof to drink tea and tell each other secrets. For me, this image of flight in a shared hope for…

Forget the stereotypes—the images we learned in school about slaves and their owners. Sarah Grimke is best known as a dedicated Northern abolitionist, despite her South Carolina upbringing. Few of her admirers would suspect that Sarah received her first slave as a present on her eleventh birthday. The slave girl, Hetty, was called “Handful” because she was too bright and energetic to be obedient. The two grew up together as fast friends, forever linked despite their differences. They tell their stories in alternating chapters, a literary device that highlights their contrasting experiences and attitudes. Together they have much to teach…

I think of this novel as a prequel of sorts to my own book, because it is inspired by the life of Sarah Grimke, another abolitionist and pioneer of women’s rights who, along with her sister Angelina, was an idol of Lucy Stone’s. The book opens on Sarah’s 11th birthday when she is gifted a slave, "Handful,” a gift she has no interest in keeping. Kidd makes the courageous choice to tell the story from both Handful’s and Sarah’s perspective, giving us very different views of pre-Civil War life in Charleston and what it takes to defy the…

From Katherine's list on the real lives of kick-ass women.

The Invention of Wings is set in the early 19th century and tells the story of a young white woman who helps her personal slave escape to freedom. It has several themes that are comparable to my novel: an unlikely, interracial, and sacred friendship; male domination; and the courage to chase a dream that will benefit others. Both books rely on alternating narratives: mine switches back and forth in time, and Kidd’s alternates between narrators. Both novels also invoke the power of spiritual lore. Kidd introduces the myth of the spirit tree while mine revolves around the grizzly bear…

Set in America’s deep south in the nineteenth century, it’s a story about courage, friendship against all odds, and love. Sarah is given a little slave girl for her eleventh birthday. Unable to accept the inhumanity of the cruel culture in which she lives, she sets out to change it – and in so doing unleashes a whole heap of trouble. I love this book for the writing, it’s like poetry; flowing, lyrical, and as beautiful as light. It’s the most touching story. I cried various times because I was so moved. It also helped me learn about and understand…

From Santa's list on love at their core.

This riveting novel, inspired by the true stories of the Grimke sisters, women who dedicated themselves to the Abolitionist fervor, specifically Sarah, also fleshes out through fiction the full-bodied reality of the role of women in 1800 culture and the plight of slaves. This is an exquisitely written novel that offers an unswerving view of a terrible aspect of American history, whose repercussions haunt us still. It is a view seen through “women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.”

From Diane's list on little-known Civil War era history.

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