the inventiion of wings

Sarah Grimke is the middle daughter. The one her mother calls difficult and her father calls remarkable. On Sarah’s eleventh birthday, Hetty ‘Handful’ Grimke is taken from the slave quarters she shares with her mother, wrapped in lavender ribbons, and presented to Sarah as a gift. Sarah knows what she does next will unleash a world of trouble. She also knows that she cannot accept. And so, indeed, the trouble begins …

 A powerful, sweeping novel, inspired by real events, this is a haunting evocation of the American Deep South in the nineteenth century, where the evils of slavery were all but invisible to those who saw it as essential to their way of life.

It is also the story of an impossible friendship and sisterhood against the odds, told with warmth, humour and insight.

This book started our year on a very positive note. Everyone without exception enjoyed this latest by Sue Monk Kidd. The struggle endured by both slaves and young women of the time brought out our compassion and sense of justice and equality. And although this theme is not a new one, and in fact often found in novel form, the switching of narrator between Sarah and Handful gave the story a full and enriching feel, leaving the reader with a completely satisfying experience.

Our discussion centred mostly on the inequality of the early slave years in America and how both sides coped with such an inhuman practice. The fact that those who wished to not own slaves were locked into a way of life that they found repulsive and appalling is sad enough, but then to have no recourse for change makes for a very unhappy life that we all thought would be intolerable. In saying that, we were encouraged to find that the Grimke sisters’ story is true and that their courage and determination against such a world helped to pave the way to a fairer and more ethical way of thinking.

We briefly discussed other books with a similar theme … The Help by Kathryn Stockett and Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup, and agreed that these are stories that must be told, and told again if that is what it takes for us to never again say okay to such a diabolical practice.