Jun 13, 2014

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (Audio Review)

Sue Monk Kidd's latest novel is set in Charleston, South Carolina from early to mid 1800's. Its a richly told story about two sisters, Sarah and Angelina Grimke, and Sarah's slave girl, Handful.  The story begins when Sarah was just a young girl and Nina hadn't been born yet. Though Sarah had reached the age to acquire a slave girl to attend to her daily needs, Sarah was never quite comfortable with this arrangement. As she grew older, she became more unsettled by it and she even attempted to buy Handful from her mother and father in order to free her, an offer her parents flatly refused. Though Sarah and Handful were never what you would call friends, there was a silent understanding between them that was as close to a friendship that they were able to have.

In her twenties, still unmarried and living at home, Sarah became more and more convinced that slavery should be abolished, which caused obvious problems for the family. Eventually, she made the decision to leave her family home and move to Philadelphia to live with a Quaker family she had met some years before. Since Sarah had secretly taught Handful to read when she was younger, Sarah was able to keep in touch with Handful over the years. Soon, Nina, too, had become active in the fight against slavery and she joined her sister.

Though Handful was enslaved, she dreamed of the day she would be able to buy her freedom and finally live the life she felt she deserved. She sewed quilts and clothing to sell and saved every penny to put towards her freedom. Many miles north, Sarah and Nina did their part in spreading the word about the injustices of slavery, along with the rights of women to have a voice. Though their lives were completely different, Handful and Sarah were fighting the same battle, which was very costly in different ways for each of them.

My Thoughts:

I was automatically drawn to this novel for two reasons: the obvious one is my love of Southern Fiction and the other is that I'm a huge Sue Monk Kidd fan! Oh, and another reason is that it takes place in Charleston, South Carolina.

The story moved along nicely through the years without becoming slow. I also liked how the chapters alternated between Handful and Sarah's perspectives. Slavery is not a roses and sunshine subject and it it could have easily grown tedious or depressing, but SMK didn't allow that to happen. Not once did I get bored or want to move on already. I felt it was perfectly paced and highlighted the most significant events.  I also appreciated the historical fiction element as notable events were incorporated and made the story even more genuine.

I didn't realize until after finishing and listening to the author's notes that Sarah and Angelina Grimke were actually real people and their story was true - save for the addition of the character of Handful. SMK became aware of the sisters while visiting a museum and was so intrigued by them that she decided to write a story around the two remarkable women. Knowing that just made the book even better for me.


There isn't much I need to say about the narrative performance other than to say it was FLAWLESS! Both Jenna Lamia (Sarah) and Adepero Oduye (Handful), were fantastic in their interpretations of these characters. This audio ranks right up with some of the best I've ever heard. I highly recommend the audio version if you are looking for a new listen. You will not regret choosing it.

THE INVENTION OF WINGS (Unabridged Version)
Author: Sue Monk Kidd
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Published: January 7, 2014
Length: 13 hrs 46 mins
Print Length: 386 pp


  1. I have to make time for this one. I listened to Secret Life Of Bees on audio recently and enjoyed it.

  2. I didn't know till the end either! :--)

  3. I enjoyed reading your review. I am currently reading this book and I am enjoying it so far.

  4. I thought the audio was terrific as well, even though the Charleston accents weren't quite right.

  5. Good review. I'm glad you talked about this one as I was curious about it after having read Secret Lives of Bees whether this one was any good. thanks

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  8. Sue Monk Kidd does a wonderful job of portraying the harsh realities of that time, especially the deplorable treatment of slaves. This is one read you don't want to miss.

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