The In­ven­tion of Wings – Sue Monk Kidd

The Star (St. Lucia) - - BOOK REVIEW - By Clau­dia Eliebox This book is avail­able at the bookYard. Visit us to­day or email us at bookyard@stlu­ci­as­tar.com or call the Star 450-7827 for more de­tails.

Ire­mem­ber first read­ing this book and fill­ing my mother’s head with the de­tails of it. I felt so em­pow­ered, fas­ci­nated by the de­ter­mi­na­tion of the women in this book. They stood up strong, de­spite stut­ters, race and so­cial clas­si­fi­ca­tion, for the rights of a woman, or of a hu­man be­ing for that mat­ter. In­ter­na­tional Women’s Day 2017 is themed sim­i­larly: #BeBoldForChange which is ex­actly what this book em­bod­ies.

Sarah and An­gelina Grimke were the first white and fe­male abo­li­tion­ists from their home­land in Charleston, South Carolina. Ac­cord­ing to his­tor­i­cal ac­counts, the sis­ters were stead­fastly re­bel­lious and fought not only for abo­li­tion of slav­ery, but racial and gen­der equal­ity.

Sue Monk Kidd delved into the his­tory of these sis­ters and in her book she cre­ates the char­ac­ters she imag­ines these two women to be. The re­sult proves thor­ough research by Kidd.

Clearly be­ing more in­clined to writ­ing about the life of Sarah Grimke, Kidd also cre­ates a char­ac­ter for a slave girl – Hetty “Hand­ful” Grimke – who Sarah re­ceives as a present for her 11th birth­day in Novem­ber 1803. Kidd nar­rates the book from the per­spec­tive of these two women, as they be­come friends and the pil­lar for each other’s sur­vival over the next thirty-five years.

Sarah’s ap­petite for equal­ity and civil rights starts when she is pre­sented with Hand­ful. She prom­ises Hand­ful’s mother, Char­lotte, that she will help free Hand­ful. Sarah then strug­gles, not just to free her own slave-girl, but also to abol­ish slav­ery en­tirely.

How­ever, she faces dif­fi­culty with both prom­ises, and Sarah de­cides that she will give Hand­ful an­other form of free­dom, the abil­ity to read. In 1800 Amer­ica, Sarah’s plan is il­le­gal and they both get into trou­ble. Worse yet, ac­cess to her fa­ther’s li­brary, where she is able to ob­tain more knowl­edge than con­sid­ered fit­ting for a fe­male, helps Sarah learn some un­nerv­ing things about her so­ci­ety. She sadly re­al­izes that her aims, though im­por­tant to her, are con­sid­ered ridicu­lous and de­fi­ant. It helps the girls keep in close con­tact through ev­ery­thing else they are about to bat­tle.

Sarah and Hand­ful get them­selves into more and more trou­ble and both ex­pe­ri­ence hard­ships. Char­lotte dis­ap­pears for an ex­tended pe­riod of time, Hand­ful’s foot gets de­stroyed in the “Work House” where slaves are pun­ished, Sarah’s heart beaks re­peat­edly, and she faces os­tracism for her beliefs and de­fi­ance. Then, An­gelina comes along, like a bless­ing. After Sarah leaves for Philadel­phia, be­comes a Quaker and is prac­ti­cally ban­ished from her home­town, An­gelina helps with the com­mu­ni­ca­tion between her and Hand­ful; she even­tu­ally be­comes Sarah’s loyal com­pan­ion in re­bel­lion.

The sis­ters re­volt in bold ways: sit­ting in the ne­gro pews; writ­ing to the news­pa­pers and dis­tribut­ing pam­phlets with mes­sages against slav­ery and in­equal­ity; liv­ing with slaves, and speak­ing out at pub­lic meet­ings. Mean­while Hand­ful is also re­belling in her own way, sneak­ing out and play­ing a ma­jor role in the plan­ning of an un­suc­cess­ful slave re­volt.

This novel leaves the reader with feel­ings of fierce strength and hope while both nar­ra­tors tire­lessly work to­wards their goals of free­dom. Their armies are small and it seems to Sarah and Hand­ful that no one will un­der­stand what they are fight­ing for. The novel is an in­no­va­tive ac­count of the lives of the aris­to­crat and the slave girl.

Sue Monk Kidd makes you feel as if you, too, are par­tic­i­pat­ing in the war. Ev­ery dis­ap­point­ment, vic­tory, de­pres­sion pe­riod and suc­cess­ful en­counter, au­to­mat­i­cally be­comes yours. Both women fab­ri­cate their wings with each other’s help to fly to phys­i­cal and men­tal free­dom.

This is an in­spir­ing story and, like me, the reader may be favourably dis­posed to­ward learn­ing more about the ad­mirable Grimke sis­ters.

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