The Invention Of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd


If it’s one thing I am ashamed of not having much knowledge about, it's my lack of knowledge in history. I was never really interested in the subject at school, and found the textbooks boring. When I then stumbled upon this book after seeing it on the bestseller-list for quite a while, I thought that this perhaps would be the best way for me to actually learn something important; through a book. A fictional story based on real facts.

“The invention of wings” follow the lives of Sarah Grimkè and “Handful”, a young slave given to Sarah when she turns 11 years old. Despite coming from a family that owns a lot of slaves, Sarah is against slavery even as a young girl. Throughout the book, we follow them both as their lives expand and until they’re grown women.

This book has been on the bestsellers list in multiple countries for a while now, and it has been “Oprah approved”. I can see why there is a lot of reasons for that, so here’s why I think it is a good book:
  • It has a very important subject.
  • From this book we get to know one version of the world from a slave’s eye. It's a very good way to visualize how it was like living that time. 
  • We get to know Sarah Grimkè or Kidds version of her. It is so real. Kidd has done an amazing amount of research, and Grimkè’s life is described very accurately. Kidd herself told that when she discovered Sarah Grimke herself, she wanted to write about her because there's so few people who know who she is. It's a shame really, because she's an important person people should know about. 

Did I like the book? No.

And it actually saddens me to say so, because this book had potential, the story is interesting and it is so important that we take the time to read those books that actually tells us about the world and why it is like it is. This if the first book I've read from Sue Monk Kidd, but I have heard a lot about how good her books are, so I expected this to be one of those beautiful books you’ll love forever. It was not. Why? Here’s why:

There is very little character-development.

Over all, there are two people in this book that I really liked, and that’s Handful and her mother. The fictional characters. “Handful” is actually a real person, given to Grimkè on her 11th birthday, but she died young. That’s why Handful in this book is a fictional character based on a real girl.

I think that Sarah Grimkè and her sister is too much based on facts and history. Yes, it is important, it’s one of the biggest reasons that this book is important, but the lack of their development in the book is a huge disappointment for me. She does get somewhere, yes, and Sarah Grimkè’s work is amazing. But her personality never really changes. I don’t feel that she has a voice, or a personality of her own. She’s just a bunch of facts and history. I never really got to like her either. There’s something off about her, and I can’t really relate to her.

Handful and her mother on the other side, are very well described and I like them both a lot. They develop through the book, they grow and the environment around them shapes them into the people they later become. I can easily recognize them as real people with a personality. And they are described in a way that you understand why they’re doing the things they are doing, and why they’re thinking what they’re thinking.

So if anything, the chapters about Handful saved the book a little for me. If the whole book was about her, it would have been a much better book (although the whole point of actually learning who Sarah Grimkè is would have been gone).

Another thing that also makes this book a bit better, is the relationship between Handful and Grimkè. It is accurate, Kidd does not push it into a friendship, but at the same time they are close enough for it to be some sort of friendship anyway. It is a relationship based on respect for one another, but it could never be a real friendship because of all that revolves around them. I like this.

But all in all, I’m disappointed. Sarah Grimkè lacks a personality of her own, and I miss her as a living, thinking character and not a summary of everything she’s done. I miss character development. And maybe a little bit action. The chapter about Handful saved the book a little, but not enough for me to like it. I did learn something though, and I was right about this being the best way for me to learn about important things. But as a novel, this book does not do it for me.

Also, I read the Norwegian version. In Norwegian this book is named “bursdagsgaven” which means “the birthday gift”. “The invention of wings” is a much more beautiful title. Just saying.

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