The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Trigger Warning: This novel and review discuss the following: race and racism, women’s rights.

Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars


I have heard that Kidd is an author you just have to read, but being as my reading time is a little non-existent at the time, I decided to see if I could give her a listen instead. Luckily, I got a copy through Hoopla and breezed through the audiobook while I worked nights in the barn.

At age ten, Sarah Grimke, a plantation owner’s daughter, had dreams of becoming a lawyer someday. She befriends her housemaid, Handful (Hetty for short), who dreams of freedom, and teaches her to read even though it’s against the law. When the two are caught, Sarah is punished with not being allowed to read books, and Hetty is given a lash. Afterwards at such a tender age, they learn that their friendship isn’t considered proper and their dreams are considered too lofty.

As they reach sixteen, Sarah is introduced into society and encouraged to find a husband, though she still secretly holds on to the hopes of doing more than what is considered proper for a woman. Hetty has become a wonderful seamstress, even outdoing her mother’s talented work. Both do as is expected of them, but they both realize that the are both caged women- one because of her race, one because of her gender. When Sarah learns the truth about her fiancé, and when Hetty’s mother runs away from the plantation, both girls realize they must prove their independence and fight for their freedom.

As the final chapters bring a conclusion to the women’s lives, I can understand why this is recommended reading! Kidd weaves a beautiful web, and gives the reader strong female leads besides. The character development is wonderful, and the depth of the novel is both heavy, heartbreaking, and yet hopeful. Kidd also gives her readers beautiful examples of friendship, sisterhood, and resiliency. I also love the historical context, and that these characters are based on their real-life counterparts. I enjoyed listening to the narrators bring these two women to life.

Published: May 5, 2015

Publisher: Penguin Books

TL/DR: The Invention of Wings is a coming of age novel that discusses race, feminism, and friendship.

Read it? Yes, but know it’s not a light-hearted read , and has controversial content that is still relevant today.

Recommend it? Yes, from teen audiences and up.

Buy it? Yes. This is such a beautiful novel and deserves to be in everyone’s book collection.

If you liked this novel or review, check out these similar reads:

Categories: Book Review, Culturally Diverse, Fiction, Historical

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10 replies

  1. One of my favs over the past few years!

  2. Sarah Grimké’s grandniece had an interesting literary career of her own:


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