TBT Review: The Invention of Wings

The following review is from February 2014:
I love history and American history and from inception to the 1960s, is one of my passions. Along with factual reading I enjoy historical fiction as it presents a different form of storytelling. For me, it is a way to put yourself in the time through interesting characters...

the-invention-of-wings-abTHE INVENTION OF WINGS Written by Sue Monk Kidd

(Narrated by Jenna Lamia and Adepero Oduye)

2014; 385 Pages (Audio length: 13 hours and 46 minutes) (Penguin/Viking Books)

Genre: historical fiction, american, southern fiction, african fiction, slavery, audio

(I received an ARC from NetGalley)

Rating: ★★★★

Sue Monk Kidd wrote The Invention of Wings because of her interest in the Grimke sisters and the time they lived in. In the novel we hear from Sarah Grimke and her maid, Hetty “Handful” Grimke. 

Sarah is the middle child of a wealthy lawyer with a household of house and field slaves.  We meet Sarah at a young age when her ideals and moral code is cemented.  As a child she wanted to be a jurist like her father and brother but is told that she is a woman and therefore will be a wife.  She meets a charming man with whom she thinks she can be the “wife” with.  When her heart is broken she forgoes society and her reputation as she fights for the rights for women and African-Americans with her youngest sister, Angelina.

Hetty’s mother is also a slave has become Mrs. Grimke’s seamstress when she  shows talent.  Hetty sits at her mother’s feet learning about sewing, her family history and wanting to be free.  Sarah is uncomfortable with Hetty being a slave and tries to free her when Hetty is given to her on her birthday.  When she is told no Sarah goes against the law to teach her to read and write.  Hetty taking on her mother’s word joins the cause to free herself.

I loved Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees and was pleased to see that she was writing another novel set in the South. Before I started this novel I did not know that this story was based on real historical figures.  The author does tell in the Afterwards why she wrote this story and how much is historical fact and how much is historical fiction.  I love that the novel alternates between Sarah and Hetty as it gives us the aspect of both “slaves” and “slaveholders” in the early nineteenth century.  The writing is brilliant and the subject matter is so interesting.  I found myself looking up the Grimke sisters and seeing what was written about them.  This is one novel that will leave you still thinking about it months later. 

The New York Times article

Author’s Website

About the Author:
011__e7c4718-edit-editSue Monk Kidd was raised in the small town of Sylvester, Georgia, a place that deeply influenced the writing of her first novel The Secret Life of Bees. She graduated from Texas Christian University in 1970 and later took creative writing courses at Emory University and Anderson College, as well as studying at Sewanee, Bread Loaf, and other writers conferences.

Her book When the Heart Waits, published by Harper SanFrancisco in 1990 has become a touchstone on contemplative spirituality. In 1996, Harper published The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, describing Kidd’s journey into feminist theology, a memoir that had a groundbreaking effect within religious circles.

In her forties, Kidd turned her attention to writing fiction, winning the South Carolina Fellowship in Literature and the 1996 Poets & Writers Exchange Program in Fiction. Her short stories appeared in TriQuarterly, Nimrod, and other literary journals and received a Katherine Anne Porter award and citations in Best American Short Stories’ 100 Distinguished Stories.

 When her first novel, The Secret Life of Bees, was published by Viking in 2002, it became a genuine literary phenomenon, spending more than 2½ years on the New York Times bestseller list. It has been translated into 36 languages and sold more than 6 million copies in the U.S. and 8 million copies worldwide. Bees was named the Book Sense Paperback Book of the Year in 2004, long-listed for the 2002 Orange Prize in England, and won numerous awards. For over a decade, the novel has been produced on stage by The American Place Theater, and in 2008 it was adapted into a movie by Fox Searchlight, which won the People’s Choice award for best movie and the NAACP Image award for best picture. It is taught widely in middle school, high school, and college classrooms.

Kidd’s second novel, The Mermaid Chair, has sold well over a million copies since its publication by Viking in 2005, reaching #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and remaining on the hardcover and paperback lists for nine months. Winner of the 2005 Quill Award for General Fiction, the novel was longlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, translated into 24 languages, and made into a television movie by Lifetime.

The spiritual essays, meditations, and inspirational stories Kidd wrote in her thirties were collected into a single volume, Firstlight: The Early Inspiration Writings and published by Guideposts Books in 2006 and Penguin in 2007.

After traveling with her daughter, Ann Kidd Taylor, to sacred sites in Greece, Turkey, and France, Kidd and Taylor co-authored a memoir, Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story. Published by Viking in 2009, it appeared on numerous bestseller lists, including the New York Times list and has been published in several languages.

The Invention of Wings, Kidd’s third novel was published January 7, 2014 by Viking to wide critical acclaim. It debuted on the New York Times bestseller list at #1 and remained on the hardcover fiction list for over six months. It has been translated into 20 languages, thus far. The novel was chosen for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0. Plans are underway to turn the book into a film.

  Kidd serves on the Writers Council for Poets & Writers, Inc.  She lives in Southwest Florida with her husband, Sandy. (from Author’s website)




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