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Cover image for Invention of wings
Title:
Invention of wings
ISBN:
9781490602707
Edition:
Unabridged.
Publication Information:
Prince Frederick, MD : Recorded Books, [2014]
Physical Description:
11 sound discs (13.5 hr.) : digital ; 4 3/4 in.
General Note:
Compact discs.
Summary:
The story follows Hetty 'Handful' Grimké, a Charleston slave, and Sarah, the daughter of the wealthy Grimké family. The novel begins on Sarah's eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership over Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next 35 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.
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Summary

Author Notes

Sue Monk Kidd was born in Sylvester, Georgia on August 12, 1948. She received a B.S. in nursing from Texas Christian University in 1970 and worked throughout her twenties as a registered nurse and college nursing instructor.

She got her start in writing at the age of 30 when a personal essay she wrote for a writing class was published in Guideposts and reprinted in Reader's Digest. She went on to become a contributing editor at Guideposts and a freelancer. She primarily writes non-fiction, but is best known for her novel, The Secret Life of Bees, which won the 2004 Book Sense Paperback book of the Year. The book was made into a movie in 2008. Her other works include God's Joyful Surprise, When the Heart Waits, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, Firstlight, and Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story. The Mermaid Chair won the 2005 Quill Award for General Fiction and was adapted into a television movie by Lifetime.

Sue's title, The Invention of Wings, was selected as the Oprah Book Club 2.0 read in January, 2014. This title also made The New York Times Best Seller List.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

Kidd's novel spans more than three decades and follows the lives of "Handful"-a 10-year-old slave living in Charleston in the early 19th-century with the Grimke family-and Sarah Grimke-the remarkable daughter of the house, whom, on her 11th birthday, is given Handful as a gift. Oduye and Lamia share the narration in this audio edition, with the former reading Handful's sections of the book and the latter handling Sarah's. Oduye skillfully captures the essence of Handful. Her pacing, tone, and annunciation are just right, and the southern accent she reads with pitch perfect. Lamia turns in an equally enjoyable performance. Her airy narration, steady pacing, and southern accent more than do justice to Sarah. Fans of Kidd's novel will be delighted. A Viking hardcover. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Inspired by the true story of early-nineteenth-century abolitionist and suffragist Sarah Grimke, Kidd paints a moving portrait of two women inextricably linked by the horrors of slavery. Sarah, daughter of a wealthy South Carolina plantation owner, exhibits an independent spirit and strong belief in the equality of all. Thwarted from her dreams of becoming a lawyer, she struggles throughout life to find an outlet for her convictions. Handful, a slave in the Grimke household, displays a sharp intellect and brave, rebellious disposition. She maintains a compliant exterior, while planning for a brighter future. Told in first person, the chapters alternate between the two main characters' perspectives, as we follow their unlikely friendship (characterized by both respect and resentment) from childhood to middle age. While their pain and struggle cannot be equated, both women strive to be set free Sarah from the bonds of patriarchy and Southern bigotry, and Handful from the inhuman bonds of slavery. Kidd is a master storyteller, and, with smooth and graceful prose, she immerses the reader in the lives of these fascinating women as they navigate religion, family drama, slave revolts, and the abolitionist movement. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Beginning with her phenomenally successful debut, The Secret Life of Bees (2002), Kidd's novels have found an intense readership among library patrons, who will be eager to get their hands on her latest one.--Price, Kerri Copyright 2010 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

Unlikely alliances are a staple of fiction, and the unlikelier the better, from Huck and Jim floating down the Mississippi to Frodo and Gollum creeping toward Mordor - because the real drama lies in watching how dissimilar characters turn out to be brothers (or sisters) under the skin. Sue Monk Kidd followed this principle in her best-selling first novel, The Secret Life of Bees, in which a 14-year-old white girl and her family's black servant join in fleeing abuse in the South Carolina of the civil rights era. Kidd's latest novel, The Invention of Wings, also set largely in South Carolina, involves another unusual duo, in this case a slave and a daughter of the family that owns her. The story begins in Charleston in 1803 on the day 11-year-old Sarah Grimké is given Hetty, or "Handful," roughly her same age, as a birthday present. A born abolitionist whose earliest memory is of witnessing a slave being whipped (a trauma that¿s responsible for the stammer that still afflicts her), Sarah immediately tries to return Handful. When this attempt fails, she writes an official certificate of manumission, which is promptly torn in two. Although Handful has to serve as Sarah's personal maidservant, the girls share confidences and even an illicit picnic on the roof. Sarah also teaches Handful to read and write, an infraction that results in harsh penalties for both. To her credit, Kidd doesn't insist on a close friendship between these characters. They like each other, but uneasily, Sarah out of guilt and Handful because she knows she's listed on a household inventory right after the water trough, the wheelbarrow, the claw hammer and the bushel of flint corn. Instead, through alternating chapters narrated by Sarah and Handful, spanning 35 years, the novel juxtaposes their experiences of oppression. Plain but studious Sarah reads Voltaire, studies Latin with an older brother and dreams of becoming the first female jurist. But when she reveals this ambition to her father, a judge, he declares angrily that she's speaking "nonsense." Her mother later tells her that "every girl must have ambition knocked out of her for her own good" and forces her to start husband-hunting. Meanwhile, Handful's mother, Charlotte, a rebellious and talented seamstress, makes a "story quilt" detailing the history of their bondage, beginning with the kidnapping of Handful's "granny-mauma" in Africa, Early on, Charlotte is also hideously punished for stealing a bolt of cloth. Naturally, Handful distrusts all white people, even the painfully well-meaning Sarah, and soon turns rebellious herself. The truly harrowing moments in the book all belong to her and, inevitably, so does the larger share of the reader's sympathy. Yet, as the novel's title suggests, the desire for freedom inspires both heroines to defy their restrictions - one overtly, the other covertly. The first scene opens with Charlotte telling Handful that long ago "in Africa the people could fly." She then pats the child¿s shoulder blades, assuring her: "This all what left of your wings. They nothing but these flat bones now, but one day you gon get ¿em back." That Handful and Sarah both take flight by the end of the novel is not perhaps very surprising. What might be surprising, for some readers, is to learn that Sarah Grimké is a historical figure, an energetic abolitionist from a slaveholding Charleston family. After moving to Philadelphia and becoming a Quaker, she began speaking publicly against slavery and crusading for women's rights. With her sister, Angelina, and Angelina¿s husband, Theodore Weld, she wrote "American Slavery as It Is," a "testimony of a thousand witnesses" that influenced Harriet Beecher Stowe¿s novel "Uncle Tom¿s Cabin," published 13 years later. Although notorious in their own time ("arguably the most famous," according to Kidd, "as well as the most infamous women in America"), the Grimké sisters are less well known today. Kidd's intention, as she explains in an author's note, was to write not a "thinly fictionalized account" of Sarah Grimké's life, but rather a "thickly imagined story" based on extensive biographical material, including diaries, letters and newspaper accounts. Handful, however, is almost wholly imagined. A slave named Hetty was indeed presented to Sarah Grimké, but the actual Hetty died in childhood and nothing more is known about her. It's curious, therefore, that of the two narrators, Handful is the more believable. She certainly has the more vivid voice. "The smells in there would knock you down," she notes of the stalls at the Charleston market, and after a frightening moment reveals "my heart had been beat to butter." By contrast, Sarah is given to weighty pronouncements: "For all my resistance about slavery, I breathed that foul air, too." Both Handful and Sarah are admirable characters, though rather disappointingly so. Improbable allies are most engaging when they make life hard for each other and generally it takes them a while to find their common pulse. But Sarah empathizes so completely with Handful from the very beginning that we never get to doubt their innate sisterhood. While their identities as mistress and slave imply conflict, it's not a conflict played out between them. Handful's rich resentment is rarely directed at Sarah. How could it be? The actual Sarah Grimké may have been as earnest and honorable as she is here, but a little less righteousness might have furnished this story with a wider wingspan.


Kirkus Review

Kidd (The Mermaid Chair, 2005, etc.) hits her stride and avoids sentimental revisionism with this historical novel about the relationship between a slave and the daughter of slave owners in antebellum Charleston. Sarah Grimk was an actual early abolitionist and feminist whose upbringing in a slaveholding Southern family made her voice particularly controversial. Kidd re-imagines Sarah's life in tandem with that of a slave in the Grimk household. In 1803, 11-year-old Sarah receives a slave as her birthday present from her wealthy Charleston parents. Called Hetty by the whites, Handful is just what her name implies--sharp tongued and spirited. Precocious Sarah is horrified at the idea of owning a slave but is given no choice by her mother, a conventional Southern woman of her time who is not evil but accepts slavery (and the dehumanizing cruelties that go along with it) as a God-given right. Soon, Sarah and Handful have established a bond built on affection and guilt. Sarah breaks the law by secretly teaching Handful to read and write. When they are caught, Handful receives a lashing, while Sarah is banned from her father's library and all the books therein, her dream of becoming a lawyer dashed. As Sarah and Handful mature, their lives take separate courses. While Handful is physically imprisoned, she maintains her independent spirit, while Sarah has difficulty living her abstract values in her actual life. Eventually, she escapes to Philadelphia and becomes a Quaker, until the Quakers prove too conservative. As Sarah's activism gives her new freedom, Handful's life only becomes harder in the Grimk household. Through her mother, Handful gets to know Denmark Vesey, who dies as a martyr after attempting to organize a slave uprising. Sarah visits less and less often, but the bond between the two women continues until it is tested one last time. Kidd's portrait of white slave-owning Southerners is all the more harrowing for showing them as morally complicated, while she gives Handful the dignity of being not simply a victim, but a strong, imperfect woman.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Library Journal Review

Kidd's (The Secret Life of Bees) latest is a remarkable work of historical fiction that relates the story of the wealthy Charleston, SC, Grimke sisters, Sarah and Angelina. Their house slave Hetty "Handful" Grimke inspires their efforts toward abolition and women's rights, and she ultimately becomes an integral part of them. The work is superbly read by Jenna Lamia and Adepero Oduye; the language wonderfully communicates the bond that evolves among these complex women as they travel through the political landscape and the social movements of this era. Be sure to listen to the last minutes of content as Kidd discusses her research and how it intertwines with the well-told fictional tale. -VERDICT An exceptional audiobook-this story is not to be missed. ["This richly imagined narrative brings both black history and women's history to life with an unsentimental story of women who became sisters under the skin," read the starred review of the Viking hc, LJ 11/1/13; see the Q&A with author Kidd on this page.]-Sandra C. Clariday, Tennessee Wesleyan Coll., Athens (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Part One November 1803-February 1805 Sarah Grimké My eleventh birthday began with Mother promoting me from the nursery. For a year I'd longed to escape the porcelain dolls, tops, and tiny tea sets strewn across the floor, the small beds lined up in a row, the whole glut and bedlam of the place, but now that the day had come, I balked at the threshold of my new room. It was paneled with darkness and emanated the smell of my brother--all things smoky and leather. The oak canopy and red velvet valance of the bedstead was so towering it seemed closer to the ceiling than the floor. I couldn't move for dread of living alone in such an enormous, overweening space. Drawing a breath, I flung myself across the door sill. That was the artless way I navigated the hurdles of girlhood. Everyone thought I was a plucky girl, but in truth, I wasn't as fearless as everyone assumed. I had the temperament of a tortoise. Whatever dread, fright, or bump appeared in my path, I wanted nothing more than to drop in my tracks and hide. If you must err, do so on the side of audacity. That was the little slogan I'd devised for myself. For some time now, it had helped me to hurl myself over door sills. That morning was full of cold, bright wind pouring off the Atlantic and clouds blowing like windsocks. For a moment, I stood just inside the room listening to the saber-fronds on the palmettos clatter around the house. The eaves of the piazza hissed. The porch swing groaned on its chains. Downstairs in the warming kitchen, Mother had the slaves pulling out Chinese tureens and Wedgwood cups, preparing for my birthday party. Her maid Cindie had spent hours wetting and fastening Mother's wig with paper and curlers and the sour smell of it baking had nosed all the way up the stairs. I watched as Binah, the nursery mauma, tucked my clothes into the heavy old wardrobe, recalling how she used a fire poke to rock Charles' cradle, her cowrie shell bracelets rattling along her arms while she terrified us with tales of the Booga Hag--an old woman who rode about on a broom and sucked the breath from bad children. I would miss Binah. And sweet Anna, who slept with her thumb in her mouth. Ben and Henry, who jumped like banshees until their mattresses erupted with geysers of goose feathers, and little Eliza, who had a habit of slipping into my bed to hide from the Booga's nightly reign of terror. Of course, I should've graduated from the nursery long ago, but I'd been forced to wait for John to go away to college. Our three-storied house was one of the grandest in Charleston, but it lacked enough bedrooms, considering how . . . well, fruitful Mother was. There were ten of us: John, Thomas, Mary, Frederick, and myself, followed by the nursery dwellers--Anna, Eliza, Ben, Henry, and baby Charles. I was the middle one, the one Mother called different and Father called remarkable, the one with the carroty hair and the freckles, whole constellations of them. My brothers had once traced Orion, the Dipper, and Ursa Major on my cheeks and forehead with charcoal, connecting the bright red specks, and I hadn't minded--I'd been their whole sky for hours. Everyone said I was Father's favorite. I don't know whether he preferred me or pitied me, but he was certainly my favorite. He was a judge on South Carolina's highest court and at the top of the planter class, the group Charleston claimed as its elite. He'd fought with General Washington and been taken prisoner by the British. He was too modest to speak of these things-- for that, he had Mother. Her name was Mary, and there ends any resemblance to the mother of our Lord. She was descended from the first families of Charleston, that little company of Lords that King Charles had sent over to establish the city. She worked this into conversations so tirelessly we no longer made the time or effort to roll our eyes. Besides governing the house, a host of children, and fourteen slaves, she kept up a round of social and religious duties that would've worn out the queens and saints of Europe. When I was being forgiving, I said that my mother was simply exhausted. I suspected, though, she was simply mean. When Binah finished arranging my hair combs and ribbons on the lavish Hepplewhite atop my new dressing table, she turned to me, and I must have looked forsaken standing there because she clucked her tongue against the roof of her mouth and said, "Poor Miss Sarah." I did so despise the attachment of Poor to my name. Binah had been muttering Poor Miss Sarah like an incantation since I was four. " It's my earliest memory: arranging my brother's marbles into words. It is summer, and I am beneath the oak that stands in the back corner of the work yard. Thomas, ten, whom I love above all the others, has taught me nine words: SARAH, GIRL, BOY, GO, STOP, JUMP, RUN, UP, DOWN. He has written them on a parchment and given me a pouch of forty-eight glass marbles with which to spell them out, enough to shape two words at a time. I arrange the marbles in the dirt, copying Thomas' inked words. Sarah Go. Boy Run. Girl Jump. I work as fast as I can. Binah will come soon looking for me. It's Mother, however, who descends the back steps into the yard. Binah and the other house slaves are clumped behind her, moving with cautious, synchronized steps as if they're a single creature, a centipede crossing an unprotected space. I sense the shadow that hovers over them in the air, some devouring dread, and I crawl back into the green-black gloom of the tree. The slaves stare at Mother's back, which is straight and without give. She turns and admonishes them. "You are lagging. Quickly now, let us be done with this." As she speaks, an older slave, Rosetta, is dragged from the cow house, dragged by a man, a yard slave. She fights, clawing at his face. Mother watches, impassive. He ties Rosetta's hands to the corner column of the kitchen house porch. She looks over her shoulder and begs. Missus, please. Missus. Missus. Please. She begs even as the man lashes her with his whip. Her dress is cotton, a pale yellow color. I stare transfixed as the back of it sprouts blood, blooms of red that open like petals. I cannot reconcile the savagery of the blows with the mellifluous way she keens or the beauty of the roses coiling along the trellis of her spine. Someone counts the lashes--is it Mother? Six, seven. The scourging continues, but Rosetta stops wailing and sinks against the porch rail. Nine, ten. My eyes look away. They follow a black ant traveling the far reaches beneath the tree--the mountainous roots and forested mosses, the endless perils--and in my head I say the words I fashioned earlier. Boy Run. Girl Jump. Sarah Go. Thirteen. Fourteen . . . I bolt from the shadows, past the man who now coils his whip, job well done, past Rosetta hanging by her hands in a heap. As I bound up the back steps into the house, Mother calls to me, and Binah reaches to scoop me up, but I escape them, thrashing along the main passage, out the front door, where I break blindly for the wharves. I don't remember the rest with clarity, only that I find myself wandering across the gangplank of a sailing vessel, sobbing, stumbling over a turban of rope. A kind man with a beard and a dark cap asks what I want. I plead with him, Sarah Go. Binah chases me, though I'm unaware of her until she pulls me into her arms and coos, "Poor Miss Sarah, poor Miss Sarah." Like a decree, a proclamation, a prophecy. When I arrive home, I am a muss of snot, tears, yard dirt, and harbor filth. Mother holds me against her, rears back and gives me an incensed shake, then clasps me again. "You must promise never to run away again. Promise me." I want to. I try to. The words are on my tongue--the rounded lumps of them, shining like the marbles beneath the tree. "Sarah!" she demands. Nothing comes. Not a sound. I remained mute for a week. My words seemed sucked into the cleft between my collar bones. I rescued them by degrees, by praying, bullying and wooing. I came to speak again, but with an odd and mercurial form of stammer. I'd never been a fluid speaker, even my first spoken words had possessed a certain belligerent quality, but now there were ugly, halting gaps between my sentences, endless seconds when the words cowered against my lips and people averted their eyes. Eventually, these horrid pauses began to come and go according to their own mysterious whims. They might plague me for weeks and then remain away months, only to return again as abruptly as they left. " The day I moved from the nursery to commence a life of maturity in John's staid old room, I wasn't thinking of the cruelty that had taken place in the work yard when I was four or of the thin filaments that had kept me tethered to my voice ever since. Those concerns were the farthest thing from my mind. My speech impediment had been absent for some time now--four months and six days. I'd almost imagined myself cured. So when Mother swept into the room all of a sudden--me, in a paroxysm of adjustment to my surroundings, and Binah, tucking my possessions here and there--and asked if my new quarters were to my liking, I was stunned by my inability to answer her. The door slammed in my throat, and the silence hung there. Mother looked at me and sighed. When she left, I willed my eyes to remain dry and turned away from Binah. I couldn't bear to hear one more Poor Miss Sarah. Excerpted from The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.


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