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Publisher Description

From the celebrated author of The Secret Life of Bees, a magnificent novel about two unforgettable American women Writing at the height of her narrative and imaginative gifts, Sue Monk Kidd presents a masterpiece of hope, daring, the quest for freedom, and the desire to have a voice in the world—and it is now the newest Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 selection. Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women. Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love. As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements. Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better. This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved. ...

Fiction & Literature
January 7
Penguin Publishing Group

Customer Reviews

Peeking@u ,

The invention of wings

Excellent blend of fiction and non-fiction. I love books that teach as well as captivate and this one does just that!

Littleb_21 ,

Beautiful prose, fascinating story

I loved Sue Monk Kidd’s “The Secret Life of Bees” so I knew I would love this book too. I was not disappointed.

I didn’t really care what the story was about, I purchased this book just on the strength of the author’s previous books. I was surprised to find, once I read the author’s notes at the end of the book, that this was a work of historical fiction that revealed quite a bit of fact. I did recognize some of the names in the story, but I thought it was coincidence. In fact, the two sisters who were the main protagonists were quite famous women in their own right in pre Civil War days. Their slave, Handful, was also a real person, though Monk Kidd expanded her role to beautifully tell the full story.

This story brings not only the Grimke sisters to light, but also forces each of us to question our personal roles when injustice of any kind raises its ugly head. Could I be as brave as either of the Grimke sisters or Handful?

We are not so far from this chapter in American history that it is not completely relevant to our choices dealing with the social ills we face today. It is not a preachy book but it is a book that demands more of the reader than just enjoying wonderful prose in a fully realized story arc.

KHW68 ,


When the Secret Life of Bees was published and earned immediate praise from one and all, I purchased and read it immediately and found myself disappointed. At the time, I blamed my disappointment on high expectations and the fact that I opened the book soon after reading one of my favorite books of all time.....the comparison was not favorable. When the Invention of Wings was released, I found myself eager to give Ms. Kidd a second chance, particularly given the various accolades the book received. Unfortunately, I was bored.....bored by the lack of plot and the unsympathetic characters. I made myself finish the novel but I found it impossible to care what happened to either of the protagonists.

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