The Invention of Wings; Sue Monk Kidd
Viking - 2014
I'm not a huge fan of true stories that are later fictionalized, so when this book was first released, I was curious, but didn't rush out to read it. It's this month's discussion book at our library, so I decided to give it a try.
Sarah Grimke and her younger sister Angelina (Nina) were born into a wealthy, slave-holding, Charleston family in the early 1800s. In real life, these sisters rebelled and became leading forces for women, fighting hard to abolish slavery, despite being ostracised by those closest to them.
The novel begins with Sarah being given her own personal slave for her eleventh birthday. The slave girl, Handful (Hetty), was presented to Sarah with a big fancy bow around her neck. Even at her early age Sarah realizes what her parents have done is wrong. She refuses the gift, but realizes that she really doesn't have a choice in the matter. She is punished by her father and banned from his library, after she writes a document to "free" her newly gifted slave Handful.
Sarah is strong willed and realizes she may not win the battle, but wants to make Hetty's situation better for her. Sarah secretly teaches Hetty to read, something that is clearly forbidden. The connection between the two girls strengthens Sarah's determination to change the way things are as she matures. She fights hard against slavery and the treatment of women as second class citizens.
The story alternates from the POV of the women from as early as 1803 through1838. I loved that the women had distinct voices. Hetty and her mother Charlotte were determined, resilient women who became top notch seamstresses, depite the fact neither were allowed to go to school. The one thing that bothered me a bit was, what I felt, was the over use of the word "slave" -- just seemed so degrading.
I can see why this book has been a top pick for book groups everywhere as well as an Oprah pick. So many issues to discuss: women's issues, slavery, friendship, sisters, freedom and more. It's a story that truly demostrates the plight of women at that time -- white women, as well as slave women at this point in history. I thought about the title as well, and, it seems just so perfect "the invention of wings" to rise above what once was. Happy I had a chance to finally read this one.