Book Discussion: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd.

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Hello bibliophiles! Firstly, I will like to thank Sanchita for letting me write in her blog. I will start with a brief discussion on The Invention Of Wings. This is my very first post so I am pretty nervous. I will be waiting for your honest feedback.

The Invention Of Wings , by Sue Monk Kidd, is a historical novel where a fictionalised account of the Grimke sisters who were at the forefront of the Abolitionist and women’s rights movement is provided. The novel expounds the lives of Sarah Grimke, her baby sister-Angelina Grimke aka Nina and their family slave named Handful aka Hetty. Kidd has introduced other fictional characters as well, which further enhances the enthralling factor of this book. Sarah Grimke, the protagonist, was born to a slavery-cherished, super rich White family of Charleston, South Carolina. From her early childhood she was exposed to the brutality of slavery. Unlike her family, she possessed revolutionary anti-slavery principles, much to their abhorrence.

On her eleventh birthday she was presented with Hetty, aka Handful, as her handmaid. The novel is written from the alternative perspectives of Sarah and Hetty. Despite expressing deep contempt on receiving a human being as a birthday gift, Sarah’s domineering, snobbish mother did not allow her to free Hetty. Her brothers and father gave her a cold shoulder when she talked about her ambition of becoming a jurist as ‘that was no job for a woman’. All her ahead-of-time thoughts were either disregarded for being ‘mere ranting’ or met with a word fight where no matter how brilliant her comebacks were, she was always defeated. Continuous opposition around her made her a slave entrapped in the body of a free White for a short time, unlike Hetty, who had an undaunted spirit all throughout the novel. Though she was kind, she could never protect Hetty completely. Hetty did not want her kindness and sympathy though. She was hungry to get her fundamental human rights.

My personal favourite character is that of Hetty’s mother- Charlotte. She was a daring, strong woman. The shackles of slavery could never curb her free soul that was carefully nourished beneath the body of a slave. She undertook daring ventures with the hope of earning her and Hetty’s freedom, one day. She was an optimistic individual who always talked about her people’s possessing wings back in the good old days. She was stubborn and clever. Despite dying she kept her dreams, aspirations and intentions alive through Hetty and her other daughter- Sky.

Sarah was the godmother to her younger sister, Angelina aka Nina. Though they had two different bodies, they shared the same soul. Angelina and Sarah assisted each other to overcome the other’s shortcomings and together they fought against the inhumane torture, both physical and mental, induced upon slaves and women. A time came when their ideas seemed too radical even to the so-called liberal Quarker society famous for their anti-slavery principles. Sarah refused to marry the man of her dreams as he used to think that her ambition of becoming a minister was only a way of diverting her mind from the pangs of unrequited love, which she was facing at that point of time. Later, the more impediments the duo faced, the more indomitable their spirits became. Eventually they became inexorable when it came to preaching publicly about their hearts’ deep ideals concerning feminism and the felonious practice of slavery.

Sarah and Hetty’s lives somewhat got entangled together while they were on their individual quests of self-exploration and freedom of the body and mind. They would aid in shaping each others’ fates. What I loved the most about this book is the fact that it brought into limelight the similarities between slavery and patriarchy. Both arise from the power loving corrupt mindset where one gains a false sense of security by oppressing the so-called weaker class. The Whites were quite aware of the fact that their livelihoods and lifestyles entirely depended on the population and efficiency of the coloured folks. Getting rid of them would pull a conclusion to their fairytalish lavish living standards. Moreover, dictating their lives was a way of tightening their grip on society. The same goes for the men folk. They had to repress women in every way, so to preserve the superior position in society, which they were holding since times immemorial.

Professing feminism and anti-slavery was a much bigger deal in the nineteenth century, when people were too indolent and also afraid to break societal norms, as compared to it is now. Moreover, to identify the thorn in the flesh and to protest against that in the time when injustice was legal is a HUGE DEAL. Kidd has done a brilliant job in weaving such a thought-provoking and emotionally stimulating tale. Read the book ASAP if you have not so that we can discuss more in the comments section.

My rating- 5/5

Fin!

-Debanjana

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