The Invention of Wings
Sarah Grimké grew up in a slave-owning Charleston South Carolina family. Bringing an immensely important and historical figure to life in a work of fiction is a daunting task, accomplished in this novel with gritty determination and grace.
Like the emotional backbone and fortitude that Sarah acquires living her life, Kidd has taken a painful historical place and time and made the characters so real you may find yourself speaking to them as if to your own sister.
With a deft combination of style and humanity, The Invention of Wings takes readers inside not only the head and hearts of its characters, but also the surrounding environment. There is just enough metaphor, without making it fluffy. “Winter had packed and gone. The leaves had wriggled out on the tree branches and the gold tassels were falling from the limbs like shedding fur.” The language, cadence, and nuances of speech seem especially well researched and naturally flow from the character’s mouths and in their thoughts.
Timing is everything. The film 12 Years a Slave was also released in 2014 and is based on the memoirs of a man who survived the experience and wrote his personal memoir. Told from the perspective of Sarah, and her families slave, Hetty “Handful,” Kidd’s novel provides another inside view of not only the horrors of slavery, but also the culture and society that made it acceptable, tolerated, and expected.
The author notes that she herself, who lived and breathed the Carolinas for much of her life, was unaware of Sarah Grimké, until she saw her name (and her sister’s Angelina) upon a “porcelain tiled floor inscribed with the names of 999 other women who have made important contributions to history” as part of Judy Chicago’s exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum titled The Dinner Party.
The fact that this woman’s history and The Invention of Wings are not more celebrated and honored will hopefully be rectified.