Book Review – The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

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I was hoping to read a usual friendship story when I bought this book. But it is not a ‘read the blurb and get the story’ kind of books. The novel is more about history and less about the emotion of  characters. I find this novel different from the usual slave-owner story. It didn’t made me cry at the end but did inspire me. And I love that feel.

The Invention of Wings is a historical novel by Sue Monk Kidd which is based on Charleston, a city in South California. The book narrates story of two friends – Handful and Sarah. Handful is a black slave owned by Sarah’s rich family. Author narrates the story from Sarah’s eyes as well as Handful’s. Though both stories are deeply related, each one is based on the personal and spiritual way of life and thoughts of Handful and Sarah.

Handful was gifted to Sarah on her 11th birthday as her helping maid. Sarah Grimke who is an intelligent and righteous girl refused the gift and started doing everything she could to stop the discrimination towards black people. But being a girl in a society that treats black as slave and owned by white, Sarah not only find her attempts in vain but also faces severe backlash from family and society. Sarah didn’t just hate slavery but also the discrimination that women face during that time. Sarah had to move to Philadelphia first due to her father’s illness but later to find her own wings. Sarah’s second phase of life proceeds in Philadelphia where she falls in love with a man named Israel, converts as a Quaker,  learns to be a Quaker minister and eventually joins the abolition movement and starts women rights activism with her younger sister Angelina Grimke. Meanwhile, Handful had to deal with her mother’s disappearance, hardship’s at Grimke household and planing and failed execution of  black’s riot. The lives of both Sarah and Handful grows in two different directions but towards a common goal – freedom.

The book also portrays Sarah’s struggle towards her lack of confidence, speaking disorder, loneliness, betrayal and her journey to find an identity and meaning of life.

Though Sarah and Handful consider each other as friends and are able to understand each other’s emotions, the author has not made a deep friendship between the two characters. While Handful is trying for her physical freedom, Sarah is trying to liberate her mind and spirit. The story tells how both the girls create their destiny and more importantly how they invented their wings.
I think the author doesn’t want to make this book about an uncommon relationship but more about the strong history and strongest women characters of history. Readers are less likely to have emotional attachment with the characters but more likely to acknowledge and support the attitude and behavior of each character.  I liked how Sarah and Handful ‘Invented’ their wings, rather than ‘discovering’. The author makes it certain that not to waste time on discovering something which doesn’t exist but to start inventing it.
I loved the book. I loved how the author narrated this story. Moreover I loved Grimke sisters. History is powerful. It repeats itself. I hope, like the Grimke sisters, every girl invent their wings.

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