In The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd weaves a powerful narrative about the lives of two women in Charleston, SC in the early-mid 1800s. One, Hetty, is born into slavery under the wealthy planter family, the Grimkés, and the other is their nervous but brash daughter, Sarah. The two girls grow up together in the oppression and opulence of the antebellum South.
At some point in the novel, which alternates between Hetty and Sarah’s first person perspectives, you get swept up in wanting to know how the story of these two women unfolds, how Sarah Grimké, in particular, comes to take her infamous place in 19th century history.
Hetty, though a character of fiction, tells a completely different story, but a sobering one of hope and survival in a cruel world that is set upon denying her very humanity. Both women carve their own pathways to freedom – they “invent their own wings” - in a way that is inspiring and feels all too relevant for women today.
Especially if you have traveled to Charleston or Philadelphia, the Invention of Wings is an added treat as it brings aspects of early American history in these two towns to life. Katharine recommends Invention of Wings if you are looking for a light, but inspiring and perspective-changing novel for your summer reading.