The Invention of Wings



The Inventions of Wings

by Sue Monk Kidd

published by Viking


I received this book as a digital ARC from the publisher through Net Galley in return for an honest review.


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.  (from Goodreads)

My Review

Thank you so much Viking and Net Galley!!  This was an amazing book and I would even say a must read.  Sue Monk Kidd,  the author of The Secret Life of Bees, has given us a very powerful, beautifully written novel that follows the lives of two girls from childhood into womanhood.  We meet Sarah, the middle child of a large aristocratic family in Charleston, S.C. in 1803.  Her father, Judge Grimke, has authored much of Charleston’s judicial code on slavery and the family relies heavily on slaves in both their home in Charleston and on their nearby plantation.  For her 11th birthday, Sarah is given a slave of her own, Hetty (Handful), but unlike the rest of her family, she has very strong convictions about slavery and almost immediately tries to free her.  Unsuccessful, she instead teaches Hetty how to read.  We watch both these young girls grow into women, though into very different lives.  Sarah struggles to live according to her beliefs, and finds she must leave home to do so.  Through Hetty, we see the cruelties and injustices of slavery make a strong willed girl into an even stronger willed woman, very ugh like her mother, Charlotte.

The author based her novel on the real lives of Sarah Grimke and her sister Nina, abolitionists who were much hated in their hometown.  I loved that the author took time at the end of the book to explain her research and how she came to write about these amazing women.  To learn more about the Grimke sisters, look here-é_sisters

It was ironic that I started reading this book while vacationing in the Charleston area over the holidays.  I loved being able to walk the streets of the story I was in the middle of reading.  Charleston is a beautiful city and one of the places I would recommend to everyone.

My Rating

5 out of 5

What do you think?  Will you read it?  Did you like it?

Please leave a comment-I love hearing from you!

16 thoughts on “The Invention of Wings

  1. I will definitely read this book! I really enjoyed The Secret Life of Bees, and though I didn’t get into The Mermaid Chair, I love Kidd’s writing. So glad to hear a good review of this book; you’ve definitely made me want to read it.

    • Hi Andra,
      I tried to reply to your email, and it just came back days later as a delivery failure- sorry. I would love to read your book for review. Thank you so much for thinking of me!
      Here is my info-
      Kerri Capelli
      17 South Rd.
      Chester, NJ 07930

  2. I hadn’t realized this book is based on real people! Sounds amazing. i’m so glad I read your review — I hadn’t been that interested in it before now. 🙂 And the Charleston setting is an added bonus for me. I lived there years ago, would love to revisit via fiction!

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