Author: Sue Monk Kidd
Provided Synopsis: 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.
Review: It has been years since I first read The Secret Life of Bees, but I remember that I greatly enjoyed it and was therefore very excited to hear that Sue Monk Kidd had written another novel. The Invention of Wings is the story of two girls who grow up in different social settings in Charleston, South Carolina during the nineteenth century. Sarah Grimké, is the daughter of a wealthy judge, and she is gifted Handful by her mother to be her maid on her eleventh birthday. Even at such a young age, Sarah is appalled by slavery and at the idea of owning another human being; a horrendous action in her past has shaped her to strive for equality for all and a platform to stand upon to be heard.
Sarah is denied freedom to act and do as her conscience demands due to being a woman. The juxtaposition to her comes in the character of Handful, who is denied the freedom of her own body as a slave. Of the two, I found Handful’s story and narration to be the most emotionally gripping. The reader follows her trials and tribulations from the demeaning institution of slavery. So while Sarah is a historical figure that goes on (and her journey is told in this book) to become a Quaker, an abolitionist, a member of the women’s rights movement, a writer of pamphlets and an orator, Handful is the fictional character Kidd has devised to carry the story to the places it needs to go. To read this book is to learn a lot about an admirable woman who fought for the rights of others, yet I still believe most readers will leave the story with Handful on their minds the most.
As for why I have only given this book a three out of five star rating: I believe that it is a good book and worth the read, but it not any different from another book of this kind. There was nothing exceptional to really stand out and make me say that this is it.