Saturday 12 July 2014

The Invention of Wings

Finished July 9
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd, read by Jenna Lamia and Adepero Oduye

This novel is based on the real lives of two sisters during the early 1800s. The sisters are Sarah and Angelina Grimké some of the first women to fight for abolition and women's rights. The novel begins on Sarah's eleventh birthday in 1803 in her home in Charleston, South Carolina. Her mother marks the occasion by a move from the nursery to having her own bedroom as well as the gift of a slave girl, Hetty, who is ten.
Sarah is appalled at the idea of owning a slave, but her efforts to free Hetty are stifled. As the novel continues over the next thirty-five years, the narrative moves back and forth between Sarah and Hetty. Hetty is the name that the owners have given this slave girl, but Handful is the name that her mother has given her and the one she uses for herself. Because of the girls' similar ages, and Sarah's attitude towards slavery, the girls grow closer than normal for an owner and a slave. The Grimké household treats slaves better than many, but still has many instances of cruelty. It is one of these instances that is linked to Sarah's intermittent speech issues.
Kidd mingles the real facts of Sarah and Angelina's lives and the world they lived in, with the invented life of Hetty and her experiences, to create a story that is enlightening and emotive.
Sarah experiences love, loss, betrayal, frustration, embarrassment, and triumph over this time, but never loses sight of her promise to Hetty's mother Charlotte to do what she can to free Hetty. Hetty undergoes love, loss, torture, and happiness in her life, always striving for the right to do as she chooses.
The interactions between the two are nicely done, with Hetty always more grounded in the practical and the confident than Sarah. She often supports Sarah emotionally when Sarah becomes despondent. Sarah, and her sister Angelina, support Hetty in different ways, with material goods, permissions, and the gift of literacy.

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