Beth Leiss
(Viking Penguin Group)

The Invention of Wings

Sue Monk Kidd

Viking Penguin Group

Having enjoyed the novel "The Secret Life of Bees," also by Sue Monk Kidd, I was very excited to read her new book. I even waited until I knew I'd have time to really enjoy it. Once again, I refrained from reading the description so I would go in with fresh eyes and nonexistent expectations. I'm known to stay away from novels based on the subject matter, therefore missing great books. It took me years to read "The Lovely Bones," and when I did, I knew I needed to quit judging by subject. This book may have been one that I waited on, due to brutal subject of slavery in the south.

In "The Invention of Wings," based on real people and real incidents, Monk Kidd tells us the story of a young progressive minded girl of privilege, living in Charleston in the early 1800s. Sarah is horrified when she receives her own slave, Hettie, also known as Handful, as a Birthday present for her 11th birthday. Immediately, Sarah educates herself on how to legally set Hettie free and creates such a document to present to her parents. This doesn't go over well and she is instantly quieted. Sarah, wanting to study to become a lawyer is quickly shut down by her father and is forbidden to enter his library. Hettie, the same age as Sarah, is equally smart and feisty as Sarah, which leads to friendship between the two. Having to hide the friendship from her parents, she teaches Hettie to read, which is considered a crime during these times.

As the girls grow older they are separated by shame on Sarah's part and justified anger at her lot in life for Hettie. Although Sarah is quiet about her anti-slavery beliefs, she is sympathetic to Hettie and offers protection, if she can give it by way of notes of permission to be out away from the family home. Hettie is inspired by her strong-willed mother and her stories reflected in the beautiful quilts she makes, depicting freedom in Africa.

After a failed engagement to marry, Sarah acknowledges her beliefs on slavery and strong faith in God, which lead her to the north and the Quaker's way of life. Quakers were opposed to slavery and she found solace in that, as her anti-slavery view in the south was considered criminal. Pursuing a desire to be one of the rare female Quaker ministers, Sarah decides to focus on this and becoming an active abolitionist. Although the abolitionists want her support and talent for writing pamphlets supporting her cause, they frown on her.

In reading this book, I learned more about the south, during these times and was interested to find that Sarah Grimke did exist. Much of this novel focuses on facts surrounding her life. Although there are times I wished the story would take a different turn, I realize it needed to be some what, fact-based. I recommend this book to anyone that enjoys learning a bit of history while reading.

Beth Leiss was raised in Bismarck and has always enjoyed reading all kinds of books. Her dream is to pass her love of reading on to her girls as her mother passed it on to her.