The Norman Transcript

April 11, 2014

Book review: Kidd delivers thought-provoking novel on slavery


The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — by Amber Hodge

Book: The Invention of Wings (2014, Viking)

Author: Sue Monk Kidd

Why you should read: Kidd might be known for her worldwide hit “The Secret Life of Bees,” which released in 2002 and spent more than two years on the NY Times Best Seller’s list, but “The Invention of Wings” is giving it a run for its money. It currently sits at No. 7 for combined print and e-book fiction, and is an Oprah’s Book Club pick. It is rife with southern charm and history, and Kidd pulls out all the stops to deliver a fantastic story.

The narrative begins in 1803 Charleston, where young Sarah Grimké is presented with equally young slave Hetty “Handful” for her 12th birthday. When Sarah requests that Handful be returned, and is denied, she pens a “manumission” document in an attempt to free her, which is quickly torn to pieces. Though Handful must remain Sarah’s maidservant, the two form a reluctant friendship. Sarah even teaches Handful to read and write, resulting in punishments for both of them. In alternating point of views, “Wings” spans 35 years of Sarah and Handful’s lives as they both find ways to make it in a world that has equal troubles for them both.

One of the most interesting aspects of this story is that Sarah was truly a historical figure, and among the first female abolitionists. According to Kidd, “Sarah was the first woman in the United States to write a comprehensive feminist manifesto, and Angelina [her sister] was the first woman to speak before a legislative body.”

“Wings” is a remarkable book, and the light shed on female empowerment and slavery in harsh times is thought-provoking. Readers won’t blink an eye at the nearly 400 pages, as the story is told with elegance and care, lending to an easy read.

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