Monday, March 3, 2014

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

The Invention of WingsAt first I wasn't sure I'd like this book. The slave and the "master's daughter" has been done to death. I even thought it was taking a similar route to The Wedding Gift. For a while, I couldn't figure out how in the world these two ladies' stories came together. They hit that expected fork in the road and went their separate ways and I was like, "Wait...what's the point? How does this tie up?"

The point...gosh, there are so many points...the rights of the slaves, the rights of women, the rights of human beings. And the biggest lesson of all, the most profound message I got from this book is summed up right here:

She was trapped same as me, but she was trapped by her mind, by the minds of the people round her, not by the law. At the African church, Mr. Vesey used to say, Be careful, you can get enslaved twice, once in your body and once in your mind.

Though the evils of slavery are abundant in this novel, I feel Sarah, the southern daughter, stole the show. She's a girl whose parents have had to "break her like a horse". She wants the same rights and liberties as her brothers. She wants to be a lawyer. She's outspoken, until she truly is "broken like a horse".  The below quote is from her very own mother.

"Every girl comes into the world with varying degrees of ambition, even if it's only the hope of not belonging body and soul to her husband. The truth is that every girl must have ambition knocked out of her for her own good. You are unusual in your determination to fight what is inevitable. You resisted and so it came to this, to being broken like a horse."

With her story, there is so much going on as we watch a young woman not accepted by family, not accepted by church, not accepted by men... There's a very powerful moment when she has a choice between career and family, when her heart is just so crushed. I felt as though my heart was crushed with hers. We see plantation life and the makings of a slave revolt through Handful's eyes, but in Sarah's eyes we see the enslavement of women, the melancholy women in these families succumbed to, the Quaker lifestyle, the start of the powerful abolitionist movement, the controversy she faces when she begins to speak not only for the slaves, but for women. I got so angry when people said she was detracting from the greater cause.

I was riveted by this book. I hadn't the foggiest idea what Sarah was going to do next, what was going to happen to Handful, who though they owned her body, they certainly didn't own her mind. Handful, despite her dire circumstances, brightened the story with surprise bits of humor. Every time she acted out in some way, every time she opened her mouth with sarcasm for their "Missus", I'd chuckle. You wouldn't expect to chuckle at all while reading a story about the most embarrassing period in American history--the enslavement and brutal treatment of African Americans, but it goes to show that one must have humor in the darkest of situations, or perhaps you wouldn't survive.

For a long time, I was disappointed with Sarah, who is all talk, no action, who speaks out about this and that and yet does nothing. I'd given up on her. But around the same point I gave up on her, Sarah decided not to give up on herself and shocked me. Though she's thirty some years old at the point she finally finds a real backbone, it goes to're never too old to make a difference, to make your mark on the world, to bring about change. So I guess there were two really strong morals in this.

Another bonus: I love, love, love that these women can do it on their own. No men required.

I received this via Netgalley.

1 comment:

  1. What a bittersweet and moving novel. Inspirational and such brave and dedicated women. Hard to comprehend one human could evoke such inhuman acts on another.