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The Invention of Wings Paperback – May 5, 2015
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In the early 1830s, Sarah Grimké and her younger sister, Angelina, were the most infamous women in America. They had rebelled so vocally against their family, society, and their religion that they were reviled, pursued, and exiled from their home city of Charleston, South Carolina, under threat of death. Their crime was speaking out in favor of liberty and equality and for African American slaves and women, arguments too radically humanist even for the abolitionists of their time. Their lectures drew crowds of thousands, even (shockingly, then) men, and their most popular pamphlet directly inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom's Cabin--published 15 years later. These women took many of the first brutal backlashes against feminists and abolitionists, but even their names are barely known now. Sue Monk Kidd became fascinated by these sisters, and the question of what compelled them to risk certain fury and say with the full force of their convictions what others had not (or could not). She discovered that in 1803, when Sarah turned 11, her parents gave her the “human present” of 10-year-old Hetty to be her handmaid, and Sarah taught Hetty to read, an act of rebellion met with punishment so severe that the slave girl died of "an unspecified disease" shortly after her beating. Kidd knew then that she had to try to bring Hetty back to life (“I would imagine what might have been," she tells us), and she starts these girls' stories here, both cast in roles they despise. She trades chapters between their voices across decades, imagining the Grimké sisters’ courageous metamorphosis and, perhaps more vitally, she gives Hetty her own life of struggle and transformation. Few characters have ever been so alive to me as Hetty and Sarah. Long after you finish this book, you'll feel its courageous heart beating inside your own. -- Mari Malcolm --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
*Starred Review* 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. 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. --Kerri Price --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Amaon I'm ashamed at you, you should know better and the ones your going to hurt by doing this is the author because people will be returning ithe book once they figure out what they have or just won't buy it once the word gets out.
I feel bad for the author it really is a good book.
But Kidd is a novelist, not a historian. She read about Hettie Handful Grinke who was given to Sarah Grinke as a birthday present. Handful became a lifelong friend in the novel. The real Hettie died shortly after that birthday. Hettie's mother is a major character in the story. Charlotte is the old Mistress's seamstress. She's also working on a quilt that details her history as a slave, and she's the mistress of Denmark Vesey, whom you Civil War fanatics know led a major slave revolt. Hettie stole a bullet mold for Vesey.
Sarah hates slavery, and she finds her salvation in Quakerism, which leads to her move to the North. Her little sister Nina stays behind, but her mother is driving her crazy. Nina is just as strong willed as Sarah, and she refuses to be confirmed in the Southern church, presumably Anglicanism in this case. Sarah raised Nina; Nina sees her as more of a mother than her real one, and she eventually joins Sarah in the North. One of Sarah's major disappointments as a child was being told by her father and favorite brother, Thomas, that she could never become a lawyer, her major ambition at the time. Once she moved to the North, that ambition changed to the Quaker ministry. In the novel she has a suitor, a widower who wants her to drop the ministry ambition and become a mother to his children. She refuses. In real life, it seems Sarah felt the marriage would interfere with her ambition to become a minister. Meanwhile the sisters are raising hell in the Quaker church. The Quaker leaders want them to pull back on the abolition scenario. Nina writes a letter to William Lloyd Garrison's the LIBERATOR which leads to them being asked to leave the church.
But Theodore Weld, a famous abolitionist who had made a pact with John Greenleaf Whittier to never marry until the slaves were emancipated, breaks the pact when he meets the beautiful Nina whom he'd come to compliment on her letter. Nina refuses to let Sarah go and asks her to live with them.
Among the first to take up women's rights, along with abolition of the slaves, the Grimke sisters resisted efforts by Weld, Whittier and others to concentrate on abolition. As early agitators the Grimke sisters were ahead of the Quakers when it came to freedom for the slaves and ahead of many of the early proponents of equal rights for women. They even tried to vote. They deserve more attention in our history books.