Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 384 pages
Audiobook Length: 11 hours and 15 minutes
First Published: 2014
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.
Quotes from The Invention of Wings
If you must err, do so on the side of audacity.
My body might be a slave, but not my mind. For you, it’s the other way round.
There’s no pain on earth that doesn’t crave a benevolent witness.
To remain silent in the face of evil is itself a form of evil.
I’d chosen the regret I could live with best, that’s all.
About Sue Monk Kidd
Sue Monk Kidd is the author of four novels: The Secret Life of Bees, The Mermaid Chair, The Invention of Wings, and The Book of Longings. She has also written several memoirs, including The Dance of the Dissident Daughter and Traveling with Pomegranates, co-authored by her daughter Ann Kidd Taylor. She currently lives in North Carolina. Visit the author’s website →