Today, we are going to talk about February’s book of the month, The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. First, let’s check out this book and see what it is all about.
The Invention of Wings tells the story of Hetty “Handful” Grimke, a ten year old urban slave, and Sarah Grimke, the daughter of the wealthy family that owns Handful. The novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday when Handful is given to Sarah as a handmaid. It follows the remarkable journey of these two women 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. 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.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.
Questions to think about and/or answer:
- The title The Invention of Wings was one of the first inspirations that came to Sue Monk Kidd as she began the novel. Why is the title an apt one for Kidd’s novel? What are some of the ways that the author uses the imagery and symbolism of birds, wings, and flight?
- What were the qualities in Handful that you most admired? As you read the novel, could you imagine yourself in her situation? How did Handful continue her relentless pursuit of self and freedom in the face of such a brutal system?
- After laying aside her aspirations to become a lawyer, Sarah remarks that the Graveyard of Failed Hopes is “an all-female establishment.” What makes her say so? What was your experience of reading Kidd’s portrayal of women’s lives in the nineteenth century?
- In what ways does Sarah struggle against the dictates of her family, society, and religion? Can you relate to her need to break away from the life she had in order to create a new and unknown life? What sort of risk and courage does this call for?
- Were you aware of the role that Sarah and Angelina Grimke played in abolition and women’s rights? Have women’s achievements in history been lost or overlooked? What do you think it takes to be a reformer today?
- How would you describe Sarah and Angelina’s unusual bond? Do you think either one of them could have accomplished what they did on their own? Have you known women who experienced this sort of relationship as sisters?
- Some of the staunchest enemies of slavery believed the time had not yet come for women’s rights and pressured Sarah and Angelina to desist from the cause, fearing it would split the cause of abolition. How do you think the sisters should have responded to their demand? At the end of the novel, Sarah asks, “Was it ever right to sacrifice one’s truth for expedience?”(Questions 1-7 issued by publisher. Source: http://www.litlovers.com/reading-guides/13-fiction/9560-invention-of-wings?start=3)
- Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help has been deeply criticized for appropriating black voices, yet Kidd does the same thing here. Both books share a similar structure with alternating first person narratives. Is this okay for a white author to do? Why or why not? Read this article criticizing The Help. Could the same arguments be applied to The Invention of Wings? Is this too just “another novel by and for white women?” (Source: http://widelawns.blogspot.com/2014/02/i-finished-sue-monk-kidds-new-novel.html)
What did you think of The Invention of Wings?
Mocha Girl Latonya
I finished the book today and I am also surprised it is about real people. This book now has me googling/researching about the Grimkes.I have never read any of her books. I learned of this book when Oprah added it to her book club list and wanted to read it. Glad I’m finally reading it…excellent book. I will definitely add her other books to my tbr list.
Mocha Girl Alysia
I am almost done and I have to say that I am torn. I like the story line of Handful and not Sarah. I like that the author is telling it like it is but I hate hearing about it. TORN!! ARGHHH!! I am so shocked to find out this is about real people.