(3)The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Invention of Wings

Pages: 384
Publication Date: January 7, 2014

On her eleventh birthday Sarah Grimke received a slave for her birthday, Hetty "Handful" Grimke did not fully understand what it meant to be a "gift" to Miss Sarah, but Sarah did and she wanted no part of being a slave owner.   Despite her protests, Hetty remained the property of Miss Sarah.   It was the start of a friendship that would span decades.

It was the early 1800's in Charleston and slavery was as common as southern heat.  Sarah and Hetty both tell their perspectives of their unique friendship, Charleston, and of course slavery.  Often times their unique friendship would get Sarah in trouble, like when she taught Hetty how to read.  Even when her father prohibited Sarah from reading any books except school books for the transgression, she still found ways to continue the reading lessons. Sarah knew that even though the way her family treated their slaves was better than other families, slavery was still morally wrong and it frustrated her endlessly that she could not convince her family of that.  The book follows their friendship as they get older and more entrenched in their "roles" in the house.  Over the decades their friendship ebbs and flows, but Sarah fights to do the one thing she promised Charlotte shortly after her eleventh birthday - free Hetty.  Will she be successful and free Hetty?

I admit it, my whole perspective of The Invention of Wings  changed once I read the "Author's Note" at the end and I realized that Sarah Grimke was a real woman. I enjoyed the story of Sarah and Hetty, but I didn't think it was "great".  Once I read that "Author's Note" I thought "wow."  To know that Sarah was a real woman with real convictions and a true pioneer in the abolition movement, well it is inspriring.  Knowing her feelings about slavery, it is not out of the realm of possibility that she had a friend like Hetty and I think the author kept that friendship as authentic as possible.  I know Oprah chose The Invention of Wings  for her next book club selection, but I don't think it is deserving of a "Best of 2014" tag.  That may change, but right now - no.

Bottom line, The Invention of Wings IS a great book.  You will easily find yourself swept up in the era of pre-Civil War Charleston and the friendship of Hetty and Sarah.    Read it and tell me what you think, worth a "Best of 2014" tag or not.

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