From the celebrated author of The Secret Life of Bees, a magnificent novel about two unforgettable American women.
Writing at the height of her narrative and imaginative gifts, Sue Monk Kidd presents a masterpiece of hope, daring, the quest for freedom, and the desire to have a voice in the world - and it is now the newest Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 selection.
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.
©2014 Sue Monk Kidd (P)2014 Penguin Audio
"Narrators Jenna Lamia and Adepero Oduye are well matched in talent; their performances of Kidd's dual-viewpoint fictionalized story of Sarah Grimké and her handmaid, Handful, complement each other perfectly. Both Lamia and Oduye adopt an accent and rhythm that befit the social status of their characters, modifying their voices subtly as the two protagonists grow from innocent girls to world-weary middle-aged women. Lamia keys in on Grimké's frustrations and victories in her fight for both abolition and women's rights, making it easy for listeners to sympathize with Grimké's difficult choices. Oduye's interpretation of Handful's personality, including her pride as a skilled seamstress and her yearning for freedom and self-identity, helps listeners connect emotionally to the slave. Together the narrators have created a stellar audiobook." (AudioFile)
Eclectic, avid listener, favorite book is the one currently in ear.
The Invention of Wings is written in two voices. The first - Sarah Grimke, daughter of a wealthy judge and plantation owner in Charleston, North Carolina. Sarah and her sister Angelina are directly from history, well known as early abolitionists and women's right activists... you can easily read about them on the internet, but don't until you finish the book.
The second voice - "Handful" or Hettie, the 9 year old slave girl who is given to Sarah for her 11th birthday present. The book follows both girls... for 35 years... as Hettie's mostly fictional life is stitched alongside Sarah's mostly factual life. The two voices compare and contrast in a patchwork I found beautiful.
The audio is really good, but I have to tell you after listening to "The Help" so many times Jenna's voice would occasionally break the spell and I would see "Skeeter" in my mind instead of Sarah.
At the end Sue Monk Kidd explains her research, what parts are historically accurate and where she has taken liberties... made it even more meaningful. A life quilt is pieced during the book by Hettie's mother, but I can picture the book itself as a quilted story... of reaching, losing, dreaming and becoming.
Audible Editor. Reader, writer, knitter. Sci-fi & sandwich enthusiast.
Just moments after hitting “play” on The Invention of Wings, I knew I was about to experience something special. I was perhaps not as familiar with the writing of Sue Monk Kidd as some of my fellow editors, but I decided to listen upon hearing their praise for this novel. And my interest was piqued even more when I learned that the character of Sarah was based on the real-life Sarah Grimke, an abolitionist and early feminist. What I discovered was a beautiful, complex tale of morality, loyalty, and the ever-enduring desire for liberty. Kidd’s writing is full of complex, poignant phrases and detailed scenery that often took me by surprise, forcing me to pause and allow myself to sit with the words a moment longer. After listening, I can’t imagine experiencing this story any other way than through the voices of talented narrators Jenna Lamia and Adepero Oduye, who brought Sarah and Handful (among other characters) to life with such perfect emotion. I believe listeners will be talking about this book for years to come - I know I will!
I hear voices. But maybe that's because there's always an Audible book in my ear.
First of all, I tried not to read anything about this book before I began to listen. I really wanted the experience to be my own, free from the opinions of others. If I was going to love it or hate it, I wanted to do so for my own reasons. I hope others will have the same opportunity, but I doubt it. This is going to be THE book club book of 2014. It will be like "The Help." I hope that doesn't cause anyone to shy away from this phenomenal book because they will be missing out on something really important.
I didn't know anything about Sarah Grimke before I began this book. Kidd not only shines a bright light on a significant part of history, but she makes that history interesting and accessible by making Sarah real. I think it's an extraordinary achievement for an author.
Good books have a magical way of making me think through all kinds of questions. This one is no exception - but the kinds of questions it raises are different. I kept picturing myself in their shoes. Had I lived in the early half of the 1800s, would I have demonstrated the strength of will that defined Sarah and Angelina? I doubt it. How in the world did these women have such a complete understanding of freedom and equality - and would I have had the same understanding? I doubt it. Who are the other Sarah Grimkes - the women who fought for things we today take for granted? And why have we not heard of them? Who is today's Sarah and what is she fighting for? I can't wait to find out. You know she's out there. Change is inevitable and it doesn't happen without brave women.
Sue Monk Kidd has earned a place on the shelf next to Barbara Kingsolver. From me, that's high praise, indeed.
Myst/thrillers and ✨fun fantasies✨are my favorites but always open for a good story.
This was a good historical novel depicting two women who bond through oppression and strife. This is not usually my genre but I enjoyed, The Secret Life of Bees, and hoped to become swept up by this story, however, it was not the case. Jenna Lamia always does such a wonderful job with all of her characters but I still had a hard time building any kind of bond or connection to any of the characters. It was a hapless book and it is hard to digest that there were no moments of joy in either of their lives. Maybe if there were some small grains of gladness or hope I may have been able to become more enchanted as so many of the other readers did.
Short, Simple, No Spoilers
Maybe it's unfair to rate this after just having finished, "Twelve Years a Slave". I found this book formulaic and forced. Alternating narrators told the side of Hettie, a young slave girl, clever and quick, and superbly performed. She deserves four stars, but split the difference with the narrator for Sara, privileged Charleston girl who sounds as if she is constantly suffering from the vapors.
Hettie and the story of her intelligent, cunning, talented mother give the first part of the book life. The credit spent was worth it for her story. The last 2/3 mingle Hettie's trials and Sara's arrogant journey. I couldn't wait for her to stop talking so I could hear from Hettie. The girls' friendship never felt authentic or touching, yet forced and when they meet up again at the end, it feels too contrived. Finding out this was based on a true story surprised me, but did not change my overall opinion of the writing. Perhaps my expectations were too high. This was no "12 Years a Slave" nor was it "The Secret Life of Bees". Try the book, "Wench" for a grittier, heart-wrenching tale of friendship and camaraderie during the ugly times of slavery.
Tell me about a good book. No other gifts necessary.
Oh Dear! I had waited with such baited breath and nearly had the vapors waiting for this book. (Did you pick up on the Southern vernacular there?) I wanted to slap this Southern Belle so hard! And then I wanted to shake the author as she was reading her final remarks - really hard. This story had so many fascinating threads with amazing possibilities and Monk Kidd trivialized things into a Hallmark aisle of greeting card inspirations. When I heard in the epilogue what this author's overall intent was, I knew she had missed the mark. The main character and her sister are overshadowed by the mother and daughter characters - but the former are are so lovely, strong, and memorable. Adepero Oduve's narration as Hetty is the only thing that kept me listening. The 4 star rating for performance I gave is primarily for Oduve. I'm guessing that Lamia did as best she could with the material.
I loved the story of Hetty and her mother but I kept wanting more depth to these women and the plots. I couldn't stop thinking 'there must be more to these women.' Stop throwing inspirational poster lines at me, Kidd! The historical information regarding these sisters (notice I'm not a spoiler) has caused me to stop and reexamine my thoughts and commitments on a number of fronts, and I greatly appreciate gaining that from a book. But nothing grabbed me into Sarah's being. I've heard her story so many times before - I just wanted to get rid of her! I'm wondering if I've heard too much Jenna Lamia. Her saccharine Southern voice became very very annoying and I wanted to give up on this book a number of times through the entire first half. I'm a speech therapist, so I do know her presentation of stuttering was spot on. But I was disappointed to find that it was the only way in which Kidd could give Sarah "depth." Her conflict and growth were explored via so much Southern female drawling suffering, please stop! I'm wondering if I'd like this book more if it wasn't Lamia - again.
Monk-Kidd has stated that she grew up in the South in the 60's and feels her work is a reflection of her social responsibility to readdress slavery and civil rights. I know others who grew in that place and time and have that same mission. Monk-Kidd achieved that goal with this book; she portrays so much ignorance along with the nobility of those under oppression. I did wonder though if this magnolia scented level of ignorance was truly representative of the time. I will recommend this book to a few friends. I think this will be a fine Oprah Productions movie but it isn't the fine literature I hoped for.
Perhaps I expected too much after seeing the many five-star reviews. I liked this book but did not love it.
Somehow I wanted more. More depth, more from Sarah, more of the relationship between Sarah and Handful. Perhaps because this is based on the lives of two real life sisters, the author did not want to presume or invent too much. For whatever reason, I was a little disappointed.
I did love the narration of Adepero Oduye. I felt she portrayed "Handful" with just the right touch.
I am from the deep south and our home had several black employees. I came to truly love or understand that they were just like me under the skin: a person. This book gives you a real feeling of how the slaves and owners lived. Beautifully written but right in your face. No sugar-coating. And I would like to remind you that it all came down to money, free labor.
I have worked so hard for so long that I've had very little time to read. Enter iPhone4; now an earbud has cut driving time while I enjoy!!!
As a white girl who went to school in rural Southern Ohio I had never met a dark-skinned person until the mid-60’s, mainly because we were terribly poor and, therefore, did not get out much unless we traveled with the band, and, later I, as a cheerleader. From age 8 until age 17, I had never traveled to the nearest adjacent town 10 miles away until our school band was invited to participate in a parade. So, even though I had seen them, I had never actually met a Negro, as they were then called, until after I was married, with children, and introduced to a lady who was my mother’s best friend, and thought nothing of it when Mother told me she was having Thanksgiving dinner with her friend’s family.
A very compassionate person, I had watched Roots and, later listened to it on Audible. I concluded that every child should have Roots as a requirement in middle school. Then I both read and listened to The Help. Recognizing the time was set around the 50’s, when I was a teenager, I remembered a time when my grandmother took me on a trip on a Greyhound bus, and noticed the dark-skinned people sitting in the back of the bus. I was neither surprised nor indignant; that’s just the way it was. Also, neither did I feel surprise when the male employees made more than the females because “they had families to provide for”. I never questioned that or the off-color "jokes" they told.
I never thought about a man picking up ANYTHING after himself until Phil Donohue talked about how he picked up his socks after himself, and did not leave them for his wife to do. That was the beginning of my conscientiousness about female inequality.
I have watched the entire cycle of enlightenment about the male/female roles, and much of the dark skin/light skin roles change over the last 60+ years. I got most of my education from TV as I Spy was the first series that featured a black male in a co-starring role. That was back when a dark skinned person could not even touch the hand, arm, etc of any white female on TV, let alone look at her lasciviously. No, darlings, that was not back in the 1800’s, but was just when I was married with young children, in the 60’s, after quitting my 3rd year in college because I got married, knowing it was what society expected of me, pre-dating my wedding day after my boyfriend and I got married in secret, and before I started to “show”.
I watched as TV ads morphed from the “he” ads (What will the doctor say when he sees your son’s leg?” to “What will your doctor say when she sees your daughter‘s leg?”) Within a few short years or decades this kind of advertising has, in my opinion, made the white male the most handicapped of all the sexes and races. Within the last 3-4 years I have heard my 3 grandsons (from 3 different families and areas) remark that girls were smarter than boys! (Oh, the pendulum swings.)
Now, I am a hard working great-grandma working with hundreds of dark skinned emigrants, trying to make life a bit simpler/easier for them. I love the path my life has taken, due, in most part to the conscience-raising in my life from many sources.
Therefore, I wish to thank you from the bottom of my heart, Ms. Kidd, for researching and writing about these 3 wonderful Southern women who were ready to give their life or make it their life’s work to somehow make it better for thousands, millions of unborn people that they could never have envisioned. It makes me weep for all the unfortunates “out there” who actually have given their very lifeblood, and who still do, come to think it, many times on a global theatre.
This is a Masterpiece, and should be required reading for all middle school children!
Constantly in search of the perfect listen.
The Invention of Wings is a powerful, sweeping novel set in the American Deep South during the nineteenth century inspired by real events. It evokes a world of shocking contrasts, of beauty and ugliness, of righteous people living daily with cruelty they fail to recognize; and celebrates the power of friendship and sisterhood against all the odds.
Sarah Grimke is the middle daughter - the one her mother calls difficult and her father calls remarkable. On Sarah's eleventh birthday, Hetty 'Handful' Grimke is taken from the slave quarters she shares with her mother, wrapped in lavender ribbons, and presented as a gift. Sarah knows what she does next will unleash a world of trouble…putting into motion the kind of change that never comes easy.
I was hesitant to keep this book as my personal pick for January after I heard it became the next selection for Oprah’s Bookclub 2.0. After all, what more could a book ask for? But as I dug deeper and read more and more of this novel I could not let it go. It is truly one of those rare books that, in my opinion, hit all the marks of great writing: Lush language full of imagery set within as story profoundly grounded in the real world where the characters become a part of you. I look forward to re-living the book in audio with the perfectly casted narrators Jenna Lamia (The Secret Lives of Bees, The Help) and actress Adepero Oduye (12 Years a Slave) taking on the roles of Sarah and Hetty.
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