Sunday, February 8, 2015

Review: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

From the celebrated author of The Secret Life of Bees, a magnificent novel about two unforgettable American women.

Writing at the height of her narrative and imaginative gifts, Sue Monk Kidd presents a masterpiece of hope, daring, the quest for freedom, and the desire to have a voice in the world—and it is now the newest Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 selection. 

Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women. 

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys 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. 

As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements. 

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, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better. 

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.

Received for review.

I was seriously disappointed by this.  I should have known how it was going to go since it was an Oprah's Book Club book, but I stupidly picked it up anyway thinking that this time it would be different.  It wasn't.

Basically the story is the same as every other story about slaves.  All the black slaves in the south are wonderful saints and all the white people (slaveowners or not) are horrible.  Blah, blah, blah.  

There's really no point in even reading past the first chapter since it's so predictable.  The white slaveowner is evil, then has an epiphany and the black slave benevolently forgives her after long years of devoted service.

I didn't find this powerful or inspirational or anything but incredibly frustrating.  I seriously hated this book enough that if it hadn't been bad weather when I was reading it I would have taken it outside and set it on fire on my grill.  As it was I had to stop myself from throwing it on the floor and jumping up and down on it chanting "I hate you!  I hate you!".  I could not even bring myself to donate this to my local library either.

Needless to say I cannot recommend this at all.

☆☆☆☆ = Didn't Like It

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techeditor said...

I read this, too. And I pretty much agree. Brave you for daring to give this much hyped book a negative review.

For me, this book got off to a bad start. Although this is a story that involves two historical characters, sisters who were abolitionists and who also spoke up about women's rights, the author chose to devote half of the book to the childhoods of one of the sisters and her slave (a fictional character, in spite of what some reviews I saw said). If you, like me, prefer books that grab you and won't let go, this didn't seem to be it.

I thought the second part got better because this part is based on fact. Also, many of the other characters in the second half really did exist.

The author wrote an interesting Afterward in which she explains what is fact and what is fiction. Too many reviewers stopped when they finished the story.

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