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)
Besides incessant listening to audiobooks, I also read on my Kindle at night, birdwatch, garden (roses, daylilies), and do genealogy.
This book is historical fiction done to perfection. I enjoyed listening to it immensely and when I wasn't listening, the two narrator's voices seemed to remain in my head, particularly that of Hetty, Sarah Grimke's personal slave.
I loved the way the personalities of the two developed slowly but surely into their adult selves. I did not favor one narration over the other--both were integral to the story and equally well done. This book evoked a great deal of emotion for me. I felt for both main characters who were struggling at just existing, in a time and place that was not accommodating to either one--to women and slaves alike. I am in no way making light of Hetty's predicament, which really cannot be compared in scope to that of Sarah's. It was painful to imagine what life was like for a slave in those times, and sometimes I listened with a tear in my eyes and a shutter in my heart. It was a brutal and ugly time for which this country must remain ashamed and regretful.
The ending left me feeling hopeful for both women and missing their voices and stories. After the book ended, the author spoke at length as to the reality and fiction of her book and why she chose to portray both characters as she did. She discussed some of her research efforts and gave references for further reading about the Grimke sisters.
This was a wonderful listening experience for me--I highly recommend it.
I'm not sure why this novel never quite drew me in completely. I liked the idea of parallel stories of a young white girl and a slave girl making a connection, where each is trapped by their situation and the times. They both had interesting life stories, and the writing was good, even poetic at times. Maybe it was that both of the main characters seemed like people I had read of so many times in the past. Handful, the slave, was very smart and aspired to so much more than her lot. Sarah was a free-thinking, intellectual child, badly wanting to be a lawyer in an era where that was unthinkable. Sarah was so wise beyond her time and years that she just was not believable. As a child, she reminded me of Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, but Scout came so alive to me, while Sarah didn't. This novel also did not have secondary characters that I believed. It seemed that this relied on plot, and the plot was fairly interesting. I liked this novel enough to finish, something I don't always do with books. And I liked this a lot more than the author's The Secret Life of Bees, which bored me. The bottom line is that this felt like a young adult novel, and only the best of those draw me in.
Kneel Before Zod!!
Amazing story of abolitionist and women rights.
The development of the main characters.
The voices of both women, and it was perfect.
Handful, I can't really say why without spoiling the story.
If you have the experience of listening to the this book, it will stick with you. Not only the story but the audio experience is great.
This is a lovely story - If you like feeling helpless, frustrated and terribly saddened by what was likely a relatively standard set of occurrences for slave women during the pre-Abolition era. Based very loosely on a couple of real historical figures, the real heroes are Hetty and Charlotte, the fictional characters who just want to be treated like human beings and experience a normal life, but skin color, geography and convention of the times make that tragically impossible. The deaths of a few characters (I don't want to give anything away, so pardon the lack of detail), will leave you teary eyed, if not outright crying. The writing is artistic and beautiful and the narration from the two separate perspectives make me so glad that I downloaded the audio version instead of the printed one.
I loved the voices of the speakers, Handfull and Sarah, and found them very compelling.
This was an accurate description of life in the South during the slave era, and the fact that it was based on a true character (Sarah Grimke) made it more interesting and believable.
It's hard to choose between Sarrah and Handfull, but I think Handfull's perceptions, observations, and descriptions were so well done.
This is my favorite of the author's books, and I highly recommend it. I will read "Twelve Years a Slave" with greater understanding.
The storyline was very interesting to me. The narrator was one of the best.
I liked how the story was told by "Handful" and Sarah.
Can't say. Don't want to ruin the book for others.
Love this author. Loved how she mixed facts with fiction. Make sure you listen to her commentary after the last chapter of the book. Very interesting. Read her other books too. Secret life of bees and the mermaid chair.
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.
I don't usually rush out for all the "best sellers", but give each intriguing book/author a look. I have found many diamonds in the rough.
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.
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!
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