Kidd’s new novel is a story about two women in Charleston, South Carolina in the first half of the 19th century. One of the women is a slave girl named Handful who has been raised by her mother to be strong and proud despite being treated like chattel. The other is Sarah Grimké, the daughter of wealthy landowners. Sarah is the black sheep of the family in that she sees slavery as inhumane, and also desires a profession of her own, although she is only a woman.
The reader sees these two women grow into willful, though sometimes uncertain adults, with a wavering but consistent thread of friendship between them the entire time. While Handful seeks a way to free herself and her family, Sarah searches for a purpose in her life, her opposition to slavery growing with every year and with the encouragement of her youngest sister, Nina, becomes an outspoken advocate of abolition.
Sue Monk Kidd artfully weaves fact with fiction to create a beautiful novel. It wasn’t until I had finished the book and was reading the Author’s Note that I learned that Sarah and Nina Grimké, as well as Handful, are based in fact. Kidd outlines how she followed history and where she strayed from it, though in straying she was able to create a more powerful story than she otherwise might have.
While I would certainly file The Invention of Wings under the “women’s fiction” category, I don’t look upon her books with distaste like I do so many other books in the category. Kidd doesn’t create drama for the sole reason of playing with the readers’ emotions. Neither does she waste words where they are not needed. She is articulate without being tedious, something I very much appreciate.
Recommended for fans of historical fiction and strong women. It’s worth purchasing for your own library.
The Invention of Wings is available on Tuesday, January 7th, from Viking.