The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Handful’s always been trouble. A slave girl in the Grimke household like her beloved mother Charlotte, Handful knows the rules, in all their brutality, but no one can stop her pushing them to the limit. When, at ten years old, she’s presented to her owner’s most difficult daughter, Sarah, as a birthday present, the sparks begin to fly…
This is the story of two girls who grew up, never doing as they’re told.
This book was honestly so moving in so many ways. Sarah and Handful blossom such a sweet friendship, and from the start Sarah promises Handful’s mother she will set Handful free. But unfortunately, Handful isn’t the only one stuck in this house. Handful and Sarah both long to be free, Handful from the harsh realities of slavery and Sarah dreams of pursuing a career. However, as a female, she has dreams which will never be realised, in a society where women are barely just above the class of slaves. Her only way out is marriage, but as a plain girl with a speech impediment, her options are few.
Sarah and Handful are not the only inspiring characters in this book. It is Handful’s determined mother, and Sarah’s confident sister, Nina, who add fuel to their fires. They both have their own dreams and desires, but it is those they love the most in the world who help them both on their paths to freedom. Although, at times these paths are separate, there is an everlasting bound between the pair which brings hope.
It’s strange, how, as someone born in a time and place so far away from the setting of this book, I feel I have never really thought about the fight of slavery. Of course I have read other books where it has been a theme, or watched films, but none made me think the way this book has done. We share the pain from both the eyes of a slave and the eyes of someone who is deeply against slavery, so much so, she herself loses her voice over the suffering she witnesses. The punishments the slaves are subjected to over such minor things, especially Handful’s mother Charlotte, are unbelievable, I had not even heard of some of these methods of punishment. I feel it was an intelligent move on Monk Kidd’s part, to give us these two differing views, whilst also surrounding us with background characters who continuously fought the views and opinions of the main girls. Sarah’s mother and father for example. Sarah’s mother when she sympathises with Sarah’s broken dreams, revealing how she too was once a young girl who thought she could fight the norm, and Sarah’s father who on his deathbed admits to being selfish, for he too hated slavery, yet kept them as it was his way of life. They show their true emotions, but we know and see how they never fought as Handful’s mother does, and this demonstrates further, the gap between black and white in the book.
The background characters later on also stand to go against Sarah and Nina, for they believe they only fight for slaves, where Sarah and Nina believe they can fight for the voice of females too.
I have two favourite parts of this book. The first would actually be the authors notes, where Sue Monk Kidd explains that she wanted to write about sisters. When she came across the Grimke sisters she knew her story would be about them. It was almost more inspiring reading about the real achievements of the sisters, both as abolitionists and as feminists. I will definitely be researching them further. I always love when an author can take someone from history and bring their story to light.
My second favourite part of this story, was Monk Kidd’s addition of Handful and her mother. In the authors notes, Monk Kidd reveals that Sarah did in fact teach a slave girl named Hetty how to read, but that was all that was known of Hetty. Monk Kidd gave her a life, a voice, a family and the fighting spirit that every single person who fought and died to end slavery must have had. At the start her mother tells her she was once a blackbird, at the end she has found her wings.
I couldn’t recommend this book enough, 100% a 5* read!