The Invention of Wings

"I longed for it in that excruciating way one has of romanticizing the life she didn't choose. But sitting here now, I knew if I'd accepted Israel's proposal, I would've regretted that, too. I'd chosen the regret I could live with best, that's all. I'd chosen the life I belonged to."

The Invention of Wings

There have been times this has been the question I've asked myself when I've struggled to make an important life decision: "What is the regret I could live with most?" For some reason, framing the question this way can add the clarity that may be missing if one simply looks at pros and cons.

It is the question Sarah Grimké asked herself before she was catapulted toward "infamy" as an abolitionist and women's equal rights activist.

The Invention of Wings was one of the most inspiring and compelling novels I've read this year. Not because of the prose. Honestly, Kidd's writing is not amazing. Her prose itself doesn't cause me to catch my breath nor does her turn of phrases delight me like some other novels I've read. No, it was the content itself. Kidd novelizes the life of Sarah Moore Grimké, who you probably haven't heard of but should have.

What Kidd does so well is takes the historical facts of Grimké's life and turns it into a compelling novel. The novel follows the life of Sarah and her family's slave, Handful. The chapters alternate between the two women. Handful was originally given to Sarah on her eleventh birthday as a gift. She was to be her handmaid. Sarah, who's father supposedly said "would have made the greatest jurist in the country" had she been a boy, taught her slave how to read, which was against the law. Although Handful actually died in her youth, Kidd uses creative license to imagine what might have happened to Handful if she'd lived.

What I find most compelling and inspiring is how Sarah, a southern girl raised by a typical wealthy slave-owning family, from an early age reacted in strong opposition to her family's views. She later became a Quaker, but still was too radical for even the Quakers at that time in her abolition views. The novel follows Sarah's internal turmoil and misgivings as she slowly comes to act on her beliefs and becomes the unlikely candidate to lay the ground work for change for not only slavery but equal rights for women.

Has anyone else read this novel? What did you think?

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