The Invention of Wings

Here is a short publisher’s summary:

Inspired by the true story of early-nineteenth-century abolitionist and suffragist Sarah Grimké, 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 Grimké 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.

I thought this was a good read, though it lagged about 3/4 of the way in. I found myself rushing through Sarah’s chapters to get to Handful’s story, which I found much more compelling over the course of the entire book. Sarah, on the other hand, had more of an interesting story as a child/teenager. Once she left her family and Handful behind, her story lost some of its spark. Sarah and Handful’s relationship is what brings the reader into the story – once the two girls separate, it is easy to compare the characters, and Sarah just does not even come close to the life and passion Handful brings to each page.

I liked the historical aspects – the Grimke family was very real, and Sarah and her sister Angelina were remarkable women for their time. Handful (a fictional character) has a very compelling storyline with one of my favorite Americans, Denmark Vesey, a free carpenter who tried to organize a slave rebellion. Vesey was a truly remarkable man, and I highly encourage all to read more into his story! I also liked when Sarah’s story began intersecting with abolitionists and early feminists, and the description of Quaker life.

My favorite parts were Handful’s chapters. Her story, and her mother’s story, was so emotional and well thought out. I feel like Kidd really honored the African influence slave culture – there is a lot of discussion into Handful’s family, starting with her great grandma who was brought from Africa to the colonies, and exploring the generational trauma of slavery on each member of her family down to her.

To be honest, I was surprised Sue Monk Kidd was white! I was disappointed, actually, but since I found out after reading and enjoying the book, I won’t let it color my write up. But just so you all know, Sue Monk Kidd is a white lady. Finding this out makes me want to search out historical fiction set in the antebellum South written by people of color.

I gave this 3 stars on goodreads – I did find myself bored with Sarah’s story in the latter half of the book, but overall I really enjoyed it.

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Dog Days of Summer Reading: August

Hello all! I am so sorry for the lack of updates – I got married on Saturday in my hometown of Sacramento, CA! We journeyed back to Sacramento on the 14th, and it was a whirlwind week of bachelor/bachelorette parties, lots and lots of errands and last minute tasks, visiting family, MAKING A LIFETIME PROMISE TO MY HUSBAND, seeing friends from near and far… whew, it was magical and amazing and I’m a little sad to be back in my normal life again.

I’ve read 4 books in the last couple weeks:

august

Oh crap, these are actually in backwards order – oh well.

Beyond Belief by Jenna Miscavige Hill was a roller coaster of a read. I read “Going Clear” by Lawrence Wright last year, and of course watched the HBO documentary earlier this year, and am pretty interested in Scientology. Jenna Hill is the niece of David Miscavige, who is in charge of the Church. That her story is SO NUTS and she is family to the boss is just incredible. Growing up without parents, no education, manual labor, separated from anyone she became close to, her parents are declared Suppressive Persons, psychologically tortured, the list goes ON and ON … the isolation she suffered is awful. I liked this memoir because it was very direct and honest – she isn’t the best writer, but her story is engaging enough to overlook the clunky writing. I was really rooting for her to make her escape with her husband at the end. I’m genuinely happy that Jenna has a happy ending after her ordeal of a childhood/young adulthood.

Longbourn by Jo Baker was a wonderful, beautiful, lovely read. The premise is that this is the Pride and Prejudice story from the perspective of the servants. Sara is the main character, and we see her grow, develop and fall in love during the same course of events as the Bennett girls deal with Bingley and Darcy. There is the dashing badboy footman of Mr. Bingley that distracts Sara’s heart from her true love James, a mysterious young man who arrives at Longbourn and has secrets of his own… ugh. It’s wonderful. Also, I felt very vindicated because I do NOT love P&P and Jo Baker paints the Bennett girls as less than lovable and sympathetic – they seem shallow, and oblivious, and spoiled in this book. Which I like! It seemed more realistic.

The Bone Tree by Greg Iles – I was really excited to finally get this book from the library after reading the proceeding book in the Penn Cage series Natchez Burning last year. Penn Cage is a former DA and current mayor of Natchez who uncovers a KKK Civil Rights era murder that has had lasting effects and repercussions on his town and family. Basically, Cage is trying to defeat the Double Eagles, a old KKK offshoot still active in LA/MS, and deal with the sins of their fathers from the 60s. Oh, and throw in connections to the JFK assassination. There is A LOT going on in this book. Unfortunately, most of the mystery and suspense is built upon the main characters hiding information from each other. I found myself skimming through pages of unnecessary drama that I think was created just to add length to the book and artificial character development. I think it was a dud, a very clunky 850 pages. It wasn’t as good as Natchez Burning, which had crazy pacing and revelations throughout all 800 pages. I wanted to give up on this one, but I powered through.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was great, as we all could have predicted. Rereading in quick succession as a grown up, I feel much more in tune with the increasing complexity of the characters/story. I read this cover to cover during our journey home on Sunday – we spent ~8 hours in airports/planes, and it was nice to lose myself in Hogwarts. I think I’ll do a big round up of my Harry Potter experience when I finish the series.

Alrighty everyone! I’m currently reading The Vacationers by Emma Struab, and I have the Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd up next.