book review: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

The backstory: The Invention of Wings is the third selection in Oprah's Book Club 2.0.

The basics: Based on the life of suffragist and abolitionist Sarah Grimke, The Invention of Wings begins when Sarah is eleven and receives her own slave, Hetty "Handful," as a gift. Told in alternating chapters, the novel explores the lives of both Sarah and Handful.

My thoughts: As soon as I heard Sue Monk Kidd's new novel was based on the life of Sarah Grimke, I was eager to read it. I've long been fascinated by Grimke and wrote papers on her in college (yes, I took the time to find and re-read those papers after I finished this novel.) When Oprah chose it for her book club, I was thrilled. I hope this novel brings the life and work of Sarah Grimke to more people.

Because of my familiarity with Grimke, I initially found the novel's pace a bit slow. I appreciated the insight into her childhood, but I was eager for the action to move along to where I knew it was going. As is common in novels about slavery, I read with frustration. In this sense, I most enjoyed the earlier chapters from Handful's point of view, as her story was new to me, and the complicated relationship between Sarah and Handful was poignantly shown from both sides.

Sue Monk Kidd captures Charleston and the time period beautifully. I was transported to the time and place of the novel as I read. Kidd assumes little from her reader, which makes this novel accessible. It can easily serve as introduction to this time period and its cast of characters.  

Favorite passage: "I knew myself to be an odd girl with my mutinous ideas, ravenous intellect, and funny looks, and half the time I sputtered like a horse straining at its bit, qualities in the female sex that were not endearing. I was on my way to being the family pariah, and I feared the ostracism. I feared it most of all."

The verdict: For readers less familiar with Sarah Grimke, I imagine the novel will fascinate and delight throughout. For me, however, I yearned for time to pass more quickly until Sarah reached adulthood. Still, the life of Sarah Grimke is inspiring and fascinating, and Kidd captures both in this novel.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Length: 384 pages
Publication date: January 7, 2014
Source: publisher

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Invention of Wings from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle edition.)

Want more? Visit Sue Monk Kidd's website, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

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  1. I have this for review -- it'll be my first Kidd book. My wife and MIL adore her, so we're going to see her when she does a reading here in Boston! (If I can get tickets!) Anyway, I appreciate your honest review and will be patient if I find I'm getting impatient...

    1. ​​It was my first Kidd book too. When I was reading it on Christmas, my mother said "Sue Monk Kidd? That's not like you!" I'll look forward to your thoughts!

  2. I can't wait to start reading this one! It's on my shelf.


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