Sue Monk Kidd’s “The Invention of Wings”

Wow. I just finished this book and I can’t express how much I enjoyed it. Most recently I’ve leaned toward thrillers and mysteries, having departed from my life-long love affair with what I call “people stories”. In short, the book follows Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave, and Sarah Grimke, one of the daughter’s of the wealthy Mr. Grimke (how I’ve typed and retyped that sentence, trying to allude to their relationship without vile words such as master or owner) as they transition into adulthood and beyond. Based on previous experiences with Sue Monk Kidd’s novels, I had a feeling I would love this one. I did. 

As I’ve been studying the craft of writing, I’ve really tried to focus on what works well in the stories I read, and what doesn’t. The Invention of Wings drew me into the story so well that I forgot to pay attention to my usual checklist, which is pretty remarkable. This is one of those stories that I wanted to hurry up and finish so I knew what happened, but then I found myself lingering toward the final chapters because I didn’t want it to end.

If you haven’t already, obviously I’m suggesting that you read this book.

One thing that did stick in my mind was the seamless way that she switched between the two women’s voices. I always knew which person was telling their story and although she thoughtfully labeled the top of chapters with Sarah or Handful’s names, readers could just as easily do without. How masterful is that? It wasn’t just in the language she used or how they referred to other characters, but also in the way we, the reader, see through the narrator’s lens. Each woman notices different things, even if they’re in the same room with each other. It served as a good reminder that every one of my characters needs to not only have their own voice and agenda, but also to be sensitive or interested in certain things. I may love milkshakes and you just might prefer pie, so of course at a restaurant we’ll order different things. That’s what makes us, as individuals, so amazing. It’s what makes our characters come alive on the page. Knowing a character as Kidd knows hers is pure magic.