Book Review: The Invention of Wings

Sue Monk Kidd The Invention of WingsThe Invention of Wings
Sue Monk Kidd
Historical Fiction
369 pages
Published 2014

The Invention of Wings is one of my PopSugar Reading Challenge books, for the prompt “A Book from a Celebrity Book Club.” It was Oprah’s 3rd pick for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0. Oprah interviewed Sue Monk Kidd in the January 2014 issue of O Magazine.

I can definitely see why Oprah was so affected by this book; the two main characters are Sarah Grimké, an early abolitionist and women’s rights activist, and Hetty Handful, the slave gifted to her by her mother when she turned 11. In an afterword, Kidd explains that she did try to stay mostly historically accurate, and Handful was gifted to Sarah when she was 11, though she apparently died not long after. In Kidd’s book, however, Handful survives. Sarah and her younger sister, Angelina, were real people, and really did most of what is ascribed to them in the book, though Kidd passes a couple of their deeds from one sister to the other. The Grimkés were from Charleston, South Carolina, and born into an aristocratic, slave-owning family headed by a prestigious judge. Their abolitionist actions get them exiled from Charleston and from their church. Meanwhile, Hetty, her ownership having returned to Sarah’s mother, dreams of freedom and plots rebellions of her own.

I was a little wary going into this book; I’ve read a couple of Oprah’s picks before, and generally found them dry and uninteresting. This one, though, was very well written. The voices of both women came through clearly, as did some of the brutality of slavery. Kidd also wrote The Secret Life of Bees, which got a lot of attention. If it’s anything like this, I might have to finally read that as well.

(I know the author is white, but I thought, being about slavery and abolition, it would still qualify for Black History Month.)

From the cover of The Invention of Wings:

A triumphant story about the quest for freedom and empowerment, Sue Monk Kidd’s third novel presents the extraordinary journeys of two unforgettable women: Hetty “Handful” Grimké, an urban slave in early-nineteenth century Charleston, and Sarah, the Grimkés’ idealistic daughter. 

Inspired in part by the historic figure of abolitionist and suffragette Sarah Grimké, Kidd’s novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten-year-old Handful. The Invention of Wings follows these two women over the next thirty-five years as both strive for lives 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.


PopSugar 2018 Reading Challenge

So I’m going to attempt the PopSugar 2018 Reading Challenge this year, in addition to my personal goals. I’m going to list off the prompts, and the books I have chosen for the prompts so far. I’ll come back and check them off on my master list, linked in the sidebar. (And link to my reviews.) I haven’t picked out every book yet, to leave room for books I find interesting throughout the year.


A book made into a movie you’ve already seen – Heinlein’s Starship Troopers
My husband’s been encouraging me to read this one, but I HATED the movie. He says the book is quite different. We’ll see.

True Crime

The next book in a series you started – Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant
I read Rolling in the Deep, a novella starting this series, a long time ago. Thought it was a standalone, I’m really happy to learn she continued to write more in this world!

A book involving a heist

Nordic Noir – the princess of burundi by Kjell Eriksson
Found this at Baltimore’s The Book Thing, and it’s a winner of the Swedish Crime Academy Award for Best Crime Novel, so I thought it would fit!

A novel based on a real person – Paula McLain‘s The Paris Wife or Circling the Sun

A book set in a country that fascinates you

A book with a time of day in the title – The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
I’ve been meaning to read it.

A book about a villain or antihero

A book about death or grief

A book with your favorite color in the title – Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch

A book with alliteration in the title

A book about time travel – A Wrinkle in Time
It’s time I re-read this, before the movie comes out!

A book with a weather element in the title

A book set at sea – Avi‘s The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
A childhood book my husband loved.

A book with an animal in the title – Turtles All The Way Down
John Green‘s newest that I’ve been wanting to read, and have a hold on at the library

A book set on a different planet

A book with song lyrics in the title – Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History by Katy Tur
A book about a journalist’s experience on the Trump campaign

A book about or set on Halloween

A book with characters who are twins – something about Jacen and Jaina Solo

A book with a female author who uses a male pseudonym – Swastika Night by Katharine Burdekin writing as Murray Constantine

A book with an LGBTQ+ protagonist – The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall
I also have a biography of Radclyffe Hall, so I’ll probably read them consecutively. I might use one of them for the advanced prompt of an author with the same first or last name as you.

A book that is also a stage play or musical – Harper Lee‘s To Kill a Mockingbird
A classic I’ve never read

A book by an author of a different ethnicity than you – Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson
Canadian-Jamaican author, so it fits my Read Canadian Challenge as well

A book about feminism – Colonize This! Young women of color on today’s feminism
A book that’s been on my reading list for a while, and I recently bought from a used bookstore

A book about mental health

A book you borrowed or that was given to you as a gift – No is Not Enough
Given to me by my mother-in-law for Christmas.

A book by two authors

A book about or involving a sport

A book by a local author

A book mentioned in another book
I’ll probably pick one after I read Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, since it’s about reading!

A book from a celebrity book club – The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Oprah’s Book Club List

A childhood classic you’ve never read – Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret by Judy Blume
Another suggestion from my husband

A book that’s published in 2018 – I’ll probably have a bunch of these to choose from, but currently it’s between The Girl in the Tower and Fire and Fury.

A past Goodreads Choice Awards winner – Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton (2016)
It looks amazing, and there’s a second book in the series now. 

A book set in the decade you were born

A book you meant to read in 2017 but didn’t get to – Blackwing by Ed McDonald
An ARC I won through Goodreads but didn’t get around to

A book with an ugly cover

A book that involves a bookstore or library – Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan
Won a Kindle copy from Goodreads

Your favorite prompt from the 2015, 2016, or 2017 PopSugar Reading Challenges
This will probably be a book with a cat on the cover, from 2017’s Challenge. Because cats.



A bestseller from the year you graduated high school – Tom Brokaw‘s The Greatest Generation

A cyberpunk book

A book that was being read by a stranger in a public place – Born A Crime by Trevor Noah
Spotted in the Atlanta airport on my way home from holidays with my in-laws

A book tied to your ancestry

A book with a fruit or vegetable in the title – Roald Dahl‘s James and the Giant Peach
Another childhood book of my husband’s that I’ve never read

An allegory

A book by an author with the same first or last name as you – To the Elephant Graveyard: A True Story of the Hunt for a Man-Killing Indian Elephant by Tarquin Hall

A microhistory

A book about a problem facing society today

A book recommended by someone else taking the PopSugar Reading Challenge