Friday, January 23, 2015

January's Book Review: The Invention of Wings

Remember how I said I'd like to start reading more? Well, I also decided I'd challenge myself and try to write a book review.

You can January's book selection through Amazon by using the link below.




So here it goes...


‘The Invention of Wings’
By Sue Monk Kidd

Two girls were born into this world breathing the same air, walking the same earth, and living in the same house. Both are born facing oppression and both want to fight back. In this fictional novel, Sue Monk Kidd creates a time machine that thrusts us back two hundred years into the midst of pre-abolition Charleston. We are dropped into the minds of two girls; one a daughter of a wealthy slave holding family, the other her slave. The girls’ stories are juxtaposed over the course of thirty five years as they grow into woman facing oppression and slavery.

In a perfect world, these two girls could grow up being the best of friends; taking on the world together and fighting for a common cause, but their circumstances don’t allow for it. The story begins on Sarah’s eleventh birthday when she is gifted ownership of Hetty, or ‘Handful’ as she is called by her mother, to be her handmaiden. Handful, adorned in lavender ribbons, wets herself from sheer terror in the middle of the room full of the missus’s wealthy birthday guests.

The first time Sarah witnessed the violence of slavery, she realized that she didn’t want to be a part of that world. To her mother’s horror, Sarah’s response to her birthday gift was “…I’m sorry mother… I can’t accept”. She asks her mother to let her give Hetty back and that’s when it really dawns on her that, as much as she distains slavery, she is part of that world. “Give Hetty Back. As if she was mine after all. As if owning people was as natural as breathing. For all my resistance about slavery, I breathed that foul air, too.” Her mother explains to her that the ownership is legal and binding and that, my friends, is where their uneasy friendship begins.

It seemed to me at first that Sarah was more of a runner than a fighter. She completes small acts of kindness for Hetty; sipping hot tea on the rooftop and teaching her to read, yet never did much to change the face of slavery. When Sarah voices her anti-slavery opinion a bit too emphatically, her father forbids her entering the library. Her studies are to include only subjects appropriate for women, such as painting or poetry.

One day, Handful pointed out a similarity between the two of them by saying “My body might be a slave, but not my mind. For you, it’s the other way round.” This seemed to be the motivation that Sarah needed to break away from the typical Southern life she had been living since birth, pushing her to pursue her beliefs in ways I didn’t believe she would. She becomes an outcast in society before finding her sense of belonging and dedicating her life to abolishing slavery and speaking for women’s rights.

Over the course of the book, we watch as Hetty develops thick skin both figuratively and literally. She was born and raised somewhat innocent from the vicious punishments of her owners and the horrors of the Work House, only having heard stories from the other slaves. She gets her first small taste of it when she watches her mauma get the ‘one legged punishment’. This proves to be the match that lights the fire of rebellion inside of her and she starts acting out. Little things at first, minor actions that would cause her owners slight grievances. After the mysterious disappearance of her mother, she gets involved with a free black man named Denmark Vesey. Hetty risks her life for his plot that could leave the city of Charleston in flames.

Althought I found it to be a bit slow toward the middle of the book, I enjoyed the fact that the real life historical figures of sisters Sarah and Angelina Grimk√©, along with Denmark Vesey were the inspiration for this novel. Author Sue Monk Kidd makes both Sarah and Hetty’s journey come alive as they each seek to change the world they were born into.

© Allison Page

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