Tinder Press January 2014
‘Master Grimke named me Hetty, but Mauma looked on me the day I came into the world, how I was born too soon, and she called me Handful.’
Handful’s always been trouble. A slave in the Grimke household like her beloved mother Charlotte, Handful knows the rules, in all their brutality, but no one can stop her pushing them to the limit. When, at ten years old, she’s presented to her owner’s most difficult daughter, Sarah as a birthday present, the sparks begin to fly…
Enthralling, shocking, sometimes humorous, always inspiring, The Invention of Wings has won the hearts of readers around the world. As have Handful and Sarah – two girls who grow up never doing as they’re told.
A book that had spent far to long on my bookshelf, but once I did pick it up, oh wow! This is the story of Sarah Grimke and actually I had no idea before and during reading that she was a real person and the story is based on her life. For such an important woman I find this shocking, tell me have you heard of her – if you haven’t read this book? The character of Handful is more fictional but frankly this was an incredible story that completely absorbed me and I struggled to put down.
Spanning their lifetimes really, Sarah and Handful are children when Handful is gifted to Sarah. At only 11 Sarah knows this is wrong but within her family her options are limited. Witnessing slavery first hand Sarah feels traumatised by brutality and torture, although arguably the slaves in their household are ‘treated well’. These experiences shape her and as she moves through adulthood she becomes a champion of civil rights, first in the abolition movement but also an early advocate for women’s rights, which she correctly determines are not separate when striving for an equal world.
Parts of this novel were stark and hardhitting and some of the attitudes were shocking, the perception of slaves as lesser and different were articulated so well, as were the justifications for beatings and even the given right to do this, the ownership and sense of entitlement of one human over another. The characters were all special but through Handful and her mother particularly, the author was able to offer insight into their experiences, as slaves and as less.
The story is told chronologically and in alternating chapters about Sarah and Handful, told in the first person narrative the characters were bought to life, through their voices, their experiences and their limits, which eventually enabled Sarah to ‘invent her wings’ and fly to a place where she could begin to make a difference.
I truly love the role of historical fiction to educate us, with stories told in an accessible way. I value my own growth from such reading experiences and this is interesting because consistently I am slow to open such books, despite a consistent and overwhelmingly positive experience. I’m late to the party with this book, but for anyone who hasn’t read it, this is a book I would recommend very highly.
About the Author
Sue Monk Kidd is the author of three novels and several non fiction works. Her debut novel, The Secret Life of Bees, spent more than one hundred weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, has sold more than eight million copies worldwide, was long-listed for the Orange Prize and has been translated into thirty-six languages. Her second novel, The Mermaid Chair, was also a number one New York Times bestseller. Her third novel The Invention of Wings, went straight to number one on the New York Ties bestseller list and stayed on the list for several months.
Sue Monk Kidd lives with her husband Sandy in Florida.