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Friday, January 31, 2014

The Invention of Wings: A Novel

Sue Monk Kidd's earlier novels were positively lovely, so when I had the opportunity to pick up her latest, The Invention of Wings, I didn't hesitate to do so and enjoy every minute.

Sarah Grimke is a young, genteel woman in the 19th century south. Her family is of wealthy plantation-owning breed, which means they own slaves. On her eleventh birthday she is given her own slave--Handful, called "Hetty." Sarah is horrified at the notion of slavery, let alone her own slave, and sets out to free Hetty. Only her mother will not allow it. Instead, Sarah forms a bond with Hetty that will last for a lifetime. Over the intervening years, each girl faces hardship, heartbreak, and difficulties that are unique to each of their positions in this unique place and time--coming out the other side stronger, braver, and wiser.

Surprisingly enough, I was familiar with the Grimke sisters story from several years back. It's a long story as to my interest, involving wanting to write a play which obviously never panned out. However, it was very interesting to read this fictionalized account of the sisters. I find their lives and the conviction and with which they fought so passionately to be incredibly inspiring and very moving.

I enjoy Kidd's writing, although at times I feel that it falls into a very formalized pattern. It may have just been this book, seeing as how the time period would have been very straightlaced and writing would be in a more classical fashion than contemporary writing. I thoroughly enjoyed the toggling back-and-forth between Handful's and Sarah's stories. I thought it brought forth a beautiful juxtaposition between those with privilege and those who make that privilege possible, that between those who have the power and those who find their own power. I cared very much about each of these women throughout their lives. My heart broke for Sarah when she could not free Handful as a child, and I strongly felt the rift between them in their teenage years. This is a beautiful story that was about more than the practice of slavery and our horrible past; it was about friendship, conviction, and what happens when you stand up for that what you believe regardless of the consequences.

Kindle version on left, hard copy on right.

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