The Invention of Wings

Written by Sue Monk Kidd
Review by Troy Reed

Sue Monk Kidd’s (The Secret Life of Bees) latest novel begins in early 19th- century Charleston, South Carolina, and follows the story of two girls whose lives are intertwined. Sarah Grimké, an early abolitionist and suffragist, is the daughter of a wealthy and prominent Southern family. On Sarah’s eleventh birthday, her gift from her mother is her own handmaid, a ten-year-old slave in the Grimké household named Hetty “Handful,” a complex and intriguing character of Kidd’s invention. Sarah tries to refuse her gift but her protests are in vain. The two girls develop an unlikely relationship that lasts over the next 35 years.

The story is told in first person, and the chapters alternate between Sarah and Handful so readers are invited into the lives of both women. We follow Sarah as she struggles to find her place in the world. Sarah is an independent thinker who believes that slavery is morally wrong. Her attempts at breaking free from her society and family’s grasp seem to be thwarted at every turn. She longs for a career and an outlet for her beliefs. Handful is a spirited, unforgettable woman who rebels in her own ways against slavery.

The Invention of Wings is a moving portrait of the pre-Civil War era that shows how the abolitionist and women’s rights movements were deeply connected. It is a highly rewarding read that I enjoyed from cover to cover and recommend wholeheartedly.