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The Invention of Wings: A Novel | [Sue Monk Kidd]

The Invention of Wings: A Novel

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.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Editors Select, January 2014 - The Invention of Wings is a powerful, sweeping novel set in the American Deep South during the nineteenth century inspired by real events. Sarah Grimke is the middle daughter - the one her mother calls difficult and her father calls remarkable. On her eleventh birthday, Hetty 'Handful' Grimke is taken from the slave quarters she shares with her mother, wrapped in lavender ribbons, and presented to Sarah 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. The Invention of Wings 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. 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 can’t wait to re-live the book in audio with narrator 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 can’t think of better voices for these characters. What an amazing way to kick-off 2014! —Tricia, Audible Editor

Publisher's Summary

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

What the Critics Say

"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)

What Members Say

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4.5 (6032 )
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  •  
    Tricia - Audible NJ, United States 01-10-14
    Tricia - Audible NJ, United States 01-10-14 Member Since 2010

    Constantly in search of the perfect listen.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "An amazing way to kick-off 2014"

    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.

    17 of 20 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anthony Moore Springfield, IL 02-08-14
    Anthony Moore Springfield, IL 02-08-14 Member Since 2013
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    "The Invention of a Great Story & Audio Experience!"
    If you could sum up The Invention of Wings in three words, what would they be?

    Amazing story of abolitionist and women rights.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The development of the main characters.


    What does the narrators bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    The voices of both women, and it was perfect.


    If you could take any character from The Invention of Wings out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    Handful, I can't really say why without spoiling the story.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nina SANTA FE, NM, United States 01-29-14
    Nina SANTA FE, NM, United States 01-29-14 Member Since 2011
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    "Depressing and beautifully written"

    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Noelle R Brodeur NM 01-28-14
    Noelle R Brodeur NM 01-28-14 Member Since 2013

    Noelle

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    "Excellent Historical Fiction"
    What made the experience of listening to The Invention of Wings the most enjoyable?

    I loved the voices of the speakers, Handfull and Sarah, and found them very compelling.


    What did you like best about this story?

    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.


    Who was the most memorable character of The Invention of Wings and why?

    It's hard to choose between Sarrah and Handfull, but I think Handfull's perceptions, observations, and descriptions were so well done.


    Any additional comments?

    This is my favorite of the author's books, and I highly recommend it. I will read "Twelve Years a Slave" with greater understanding.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elizabeth Miami, FL, United States 01-25-14
    Elizabeth Miami, FL, United States 01-25-14 Member Since 2010
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    "Awesome listen"
    What made the experience of listening to The Invention of Wings the most enjoyable?

    The storyline was very interesting to me. The narrator was one of the best.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I liked how the story was told by "Handful" and Sarah.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    Can't say. Don't want to ruin the book for others.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes!


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan Bartonville, TX 01-09-14
    Susan Bartonville, TX 01-09-14 Member Since 2012

    Myst/thrillers and ✨fun fantasies✨are my favorites but always open for a good story.  

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    "Historical"

    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.

    20 of 26 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Judy Waverly, OH, United States 01-27-14
    Judy Waverly, OH, United States 01-27-14 Member Since 2011

    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!!!

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    "A Masterpiece!"

    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!

    14 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mark Waltham, MA, United States 05-10-14
    Mark Waltham, MA, United States 05-10-14 Member Since 2010

    MTF

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    "OK novel of slavery and abolition"

    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.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan San Dimas, CA, United States 05-07-14
    Susan San Dimas, CA, United States 05-07-14 Member Since 2010

    I'm going from chapter to chapter in life. Some are definitely better than others!

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    "A Great Audio Book"

    Sue Monk Kidd has written a good story. What transforms The Invention of Wings into a great story is the narration done by Jenna Lamia and Adeparo Oduyo. Although the story differs from The Help, The Invention of Wings shares the same quality of a great listen. I found myself putting off things needing to be done just so I could listen longer. Jenna Lamia, as Sarah Grimke, stuttered beautifully and Adeparo Oduyo WAS Handful Grimke. Both narrators were spot on with their southern accents and dialect.

    I highly recommend The Invention of Wings. This is one of those books that is better to listen to than to actually read. It will be a credit well spent.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Debbie Toney, Alabama 04-02-14
    Debbie Toney, Alabama 04-02-14 Member Since 2009

    Retired CFO, Army wife, Mom of five, Grandma of six, two sons who served in combat, love to read books that reflect my values and faith, love mysteries, historical, military stories, and books that don't waste my time . . . if it doesn't have an ending that was worth the wait, I'm not a happy camper.

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    "Love/Hate Relationship with the South--The BEST!"

    This historical fiction book by Sue Monk Kidd is right up there with "The Help", but it's different, more personal. While The Help was a story that I could envision as most any town in the south, this book is based on two real sisters who pioneered a movement. I had never heard of the Grimke sisters of Charleston, until I listened to this book. But oh, how my heart cheered and rejoiced that my beloved SOUTH bore two such brave and dedicated pioneers of both the rights of ALL races and of women. They were Christian women working within the church and according to biblical principles, not only to educate others, but also to actually FREE the slaves that their own family held. The precious friendship between Sarah and Handful, the slave that Sarah was given on her eleventh birthday, melted my heart. Although parts of that friendship were fictional, many parts were not, including the fact that Sarah taught Handful to read and write, which brought on harsh punishment for them both. If you have a conscience and a heart for cutting through to the core of right and wrong, in an age when prejudices ran deep, you will gain much from listening to this book. It's vibrant, it's politically incorrect for it's time . . . and if we could go to our own spirit tree, perhaps we would be brave enough to do what Sarah and Handful did and make the hard choices that would free ourselves and others TODAY.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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