The Invention of Wings

Thoughts tiowbysmk The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd, Viking 2014, 373 pages

“She took a lavender ribbon from the top of the pie safe and circled it round my neck, tying a bow, while Aunt-Sister peeled the black off my cheeks with her rag.” p.13

Sue Monk Kidd has brought to life the story of two of America’s heroines, sisters Sarah and Angelina Grimke, who helped to kick off the Abolition movement and also lit the early sparks of the women’s rights movement. Fascinating stuff!

Along with Sarah’s (mostly, but Angelina is a spitfire), the author imagines a parallel upbringing of a young slave girl named Handful. She was given as a birthday present to Sarah when she turned 11. Sarah was appalled and wouldn’t buy into the family tradition and tried to give Handful back.  Or free her. Or…  She couldn’t quite figure out how to deal with this quandary but she knew somehow that slavery wasn’t right.

Handful and her mother Charlotte are fierce and determined and patient. They are bright and dream for better.

“My body might be a slave, but not my mind. For you, it’s the other way round.”

I loved the Charleston SC setting. I love historical fiction. I really wonder why I don’t read more of it.

“… it came to me that what I feared most was not (the) speaking. That fear was old and tired. What I feared was the immensity of it all – a female abolition agent traveling the country with a national  mandate. I wanted to say Who am I to do this, a woman? But that voice was not mine. It was Father’s voice. It was Thomas’. It belonged to Israel, to Catherine, and to Mother. It belonged to the church in Charleston and the Quakers in Philadelphia. It would not, if I could help it, belong to me.” p.320

RATING: fourpie

One question. I either missed or it wasn’t given – I’m not sure – but I was confused what happened to the father. He had to fight an impeachment for something and I just didn’t get what happened there. TELL if you remember or know! Thanks.

And one more question:  Can anyone explain “woof and warp”?

“The house, the slaves, Charleston, Mother, the Presbyterians – they were the woof and warp of everything.”

I have NEVER heard this expression, have you?  Per the site:

The underlying structure or foundation of something, as in He foresaw great changes in the warp and woof of the nation’s economy. This expression, used figuratively since the second half of the 1500s, alludes to the threads that run lengthwise (warp) and crosswise (woof) in a woven fabric.

Finally, another pie quote:

Tomfry, Snow, and Eli served, wearing their dark green livery hauling, in trays of crab pies, buttered shrimps, veal, fried whiting, and omelet soufflé.


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16 thoughts on “The Invention of Wings

  1. Someone pitched this for our book club and it was shot down pretty fast. I don’t know why the others were not interested but I wasn’t based on my dislike for The Mermaid Chair. I know her books are pretty popular but I lost brain cells over The Mermaid Chair. So dull.

    1. I’m wondering about your book club. I am now curious what books you DO read.
      I thought Secret Life of Bees was OK but havent’ been inspired to read Mermaid Chair.

    2. My book club read this one and it made for great discussion because of the discussion about slavery, abolition, women’s rights. Then there were some great characters and the question of whether or not it was gritty enough or not.

  2. “woof and warp” is a metaphor from the days when people wove fabric. The threads that went one way were the woof and the perpendicular threads were the warp. It’s like being “on tenterhooks” which is another fabric-related expression no one really understands anymore (tenterhooks were used to stretch fabric, so to be on them was to feel pulled).

  3. I’m glad Jeanne explained the “woof and warp”. I was going to say the same -weaving threads one way and the other. I did not know about being on “tenterhooks”. Had no idea that was a thread term. 🙂

  4. If I’m not confusing my books Sarah’s father died. Didn’t she go north to care for him and while she was out swimming he died. Her mother was mad because she didn’t come home right away.
    If you enjoyed this book I highly recommend the Kitchen House which I thought better in some regards. Another great historical fiction book if you haven’t read it is the Winter Garden, absolutely great on audible.

    1. No, I’m just curious about the actual impeachment part – what and why? Why was it such a surprise to Sarah and then NO explanation — or did I miss the explanation? I was confused. It was the thing that made his health decline.
      Thanks for the recommendations!

  5. I don’t think the book goes into the details of the impeachment except to say that the people bringing the impeachment charges think the judge is biased and too righteous. Of course, those people were his political enemies, so whatever the specific charges were, I’m sure they were muddled and not specific at all–which is why they’re not explained in detail in the book.

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