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Editorial Reviews

Editors Select, January 2014 - The Invention of Wings is a powerful, sweeping novel set in the American Deep South during the nineteenth century inspired by real events. Sarah Grimke is the middle daughter - the one her mother calls difficult and her father calls remarkable. On her eleventh birthday, Hetty 'Handful' Grimke is taken from the slave quarters she shares with her mother, wrapped in lavender ribbons, and presented to Sarah as a gift. Sarah knows what she does next will unleash a world of trouble… putting into motion the kind of change that never comes easy. The Invention of Wings evokes a world of shocking contrasts, of beauty and ugliness, of righteous people living daily with cruelty they fail to recognize; and celebrates the power of friendship and sisterhood against all the odds. I was hesitant to keep this book as my personal pick for January after I heard it became the next selection for Oprah’s Bookclub 2.0. After all, what more could a book ask for? But as I dug deeper and read more and more of this novel I could not let it go. It is truly one of those rare books that, in my opinion, hit all the marks of great writing: Lush language full of imagery set within as story profoundly grounded in the real world where the characters become a part of you. I can’t wait to re-live the book in audio with narrator Jenna Lamia ( The Secret Lives of Bees, The Help) and actress Adepero Oduye ( 12 Years a Slave) taking on the roles of Sarah and Hetty - I can’t think of better voices for these characters. What an amazing way to kick-off 2014! —Tricia, Audible Editor
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Publisher's Summary

From the celebrated author of The Secret Life of Bees, a magnificent novel about two unforgettable American women.
Writing at the height of her narrative and imaginative gifts, Sue Monk Kidd presents a masterpiece of hope, daring, the quest for freedom, and the desire to have a voice in the world - and it is now the newest Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 selection.
Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.
Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five 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.
As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.
Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.
This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.
©2014 Sue Monk Kidd (P)2014 Penguin Audio
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Critic Reviews

"Narrators Jenna Lamia and Adepero Oduye are well matched in talent; their performances of Kidd's dual-viewpoint fictionalized story of Sarah Grimké and her handmaid, Handful, complement each other perfectly. Both Lamia and Oduye adopt an accent and rhythm that befit the social status of their characters, modifying their voices subtly as the two protagonists grow from innocent girls to world-weary middle-aged women. Lamia keys in on Grimké's frustrations and victories in her fight for both abolition and women's rights, making it easy for listeners to sympathize with Grimké's difficult choices. Oduye's interpretation of Handful's personality, including her pride as a skilled seamstress and her yearning for freedom and self-identity, helps listeners connect emotionally to the slave. Together the narrators have created a stellar audiobook." ( AudioFile)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Jan on 01-09-14

Historical Fiction - beautifully quilted!

The Invention of Wings is written in two voices. The first - Sarah Grimke, daughter of a wealthy judge and plantation owner in Charleston, North Carolina. Sarah and her sister Angelina are directly from history, well known as early abolitionists and women's right activists... you can easily read about them on the internet, but don't until you finish the book.

The second voice - "Handful" or Hettie, the 9 year old slave girl who is given to Sarah for her 11th birthday present. The book follows both girls... for 35 years... as Hettie's mostly fictional life is stitched alongside Sarah's mostly factual life. The two voices compare and contrast in a patchwork I found beautiful.

The audio is really good, but I have to tell you after listening to "The Help" so many times Jenna's voice would occasionally break the spell and I would see "Skeeter" in my mind instead of Sarah.

At the end Sue Monk Kidd explains her research, what parts are historically accurate and where she has taken liberties... made it even more meaningful. A life quilt is pieced during the book by Hettie's mother, but I can picture the book itself as a quilted story... of reaching, losing, dreaming and becoming.

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69 of 73 people found this review helpful

2 out of 5 stars
By FanB14 on 03-04-14

If it Weren't True, I Wouldn't Have Believed it

Maybe it's unfair to rate this after just having finished, "Twelve Years a Slave". I found this book formulaic and forced. Alternating narrators told the side of Hettie, a young slave girl, clever and quick, and superbly performed. She deserves four stars, but split the difference with the narrator for Sara, privileged Charleston girl who sounds as if she is constantly suffering from the vapors.

Hettie and the story of her intelligent, cunning, talented mother give the first part of the book life. The credit spent was worth it for her story. The last 2/3 mingle Hettie's trials and Sara's arrogant journey. I couldn't wait for her to stop talking so I could hear from Hettie. The girls' friendship never felt authentic or touching, yet forced and when they meet up again at the end, it feels too contrived. Finding out this was based on a true story surprised me, but did not change my overall opinion of the writing. Perhaps my expectations were too high. This was no "12 Years a Slave" nor was it "The Secret Life of Bees". Try the book, "Wench" for a grittier, heart-wrenching tale of friendship and camaraderie during the ugly times of slavery.

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85 of 94 people found this review helpful

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