On Sarah Grimké's 11th birthday in 1803, her mother gives her a birthday gift she tries to refuse--10 year old Hetty Grimké--Sarah's very own slave. A...moreOn Sarah Grimké's 11th birthday in 1803, her mother gives her a birthday gift she tries to refuse--10 year old Hetty Grimké--Sarah's very own slave. And so opens Sue Monk Kidd's third novel, The Invention of Wings. Inspired by the true story of early-nineteenth-century abolitionist and suffragist Sarah Grimké, Kidd paints a poignant depiction of two women inextricably linked by the horrors of slavery.
Sarah writes up a document to free Hetty, but as a member of one of Charleston, South Carolina's first families, her mother reminds her of what's expected of her and that she must oblige. And so the girls grow up together, yet separate, as a result of their very different circumstances. Their extraordinary story is told in the first person and alternates between the voices of Sarah and Hetty. Hetty, by the way, is the name given to her by the Grimkés. Her mother Charlotte named her Handful and carefully doles out bits of their past, stories of Handful's father, whom she'll never meet, and of Charlotte's own mother, who was brought to Charleston from Africa to become a slave as a small girl.
Because Charlotte is an exceptionally skilled seamstress, able to make very fine quilts and clothing, they have a fairly comfortable place in the household. As literacy for slaves is illegal, Charlotte sews Handful a story quilt that tells of the most significant events of her life, and that quilt imbues the storytelling tradition quite gracefully into the book.
Sarah's life also has confines. She is a very bright child encouraged to read books by her father and brother and she dreams of becoming a barrister. This idea is inevitably ruined as it clashes with Charleston's expectations of a young lady. She also learns that it's forbidden to instruct slave children to read, yet secretly she continues to teach Handful. While the girls share a lot over the years, there are nonetheless hurdles to their friendship. In particular, Sarah is haunted by a promise she made to Charlotte when she was very young.
Sarah has strong ideas about abolition and equality, and a time comes when she heads north to be free of her stuffy family and the institution of slavery, which she hates. Her adult life is influenced by a Quaker man and his religion. This also distances her from Handful, who must stay in Charleston. Eventually, Sarah and her younger sister, Nina become infamous activists for abolition and women's rights. While this allows her the independence she has long desired, Handful's fate is not so ideal. Don’t forget to read the Author's Note! It is important, as The Invention of Wings is a novel based on fact: the Grimké sisters were real-life abolitionists, and are joined in the historical record by a number of other characters in this novel, including Denmark Vesey, a free black man executed for planning a slave uprising; Lucretia Mott, a Quaker activist for women's rights and abolition; and Sarah Mapps Douglass, a free black activist and educator. Hetty Grimké’s life, however, left few facts: she was given as a gift to Sarah, but disappears shortly thereafter from the historical record. And Charlotte is entirely Kidd's creation, a fascinating character who takes risks, hoping to find something better for herself and her family.
Readers of her previous novels, The Secret Life of Bees and The Mermaid Chair, will be familiar with the strong, sympathetic characters. A number of issues are deftly explored, including activism, feminism, abolition, religion, and relationships. It's profoundly engaging and thought-provoking.(less)
Kate Baron is a high-powered attorney, who is interrupted at work when Grace Hall, the private school her daughter Amelia attends, calls. The school a...moreKate Baron is a high-powered attorney, who is interrupted at work when Grace Hall, the private school her daughter Amelia attends, calls. The school asks her to come immediately, because Amelia is being suspended. When Kate arrives, she learns her daughter is dead; as a result of the suspension, she committed suicide. Kate believes this is true — until she receives the anonymous text — ‘She didn’t jump.’ Kate always thought that suicide didn’t seem like Amelia, especially since there wasn’t an epic note left behind—Amelia was an aspiring writer. But she was so shrouded in guilt she didn’t realize or say anything about the fact that a lot of what the police were saying didn’t add up with what she knew about her daughter. I enjoy reading Jodi Picoult because one of her characters is often a teen, and I think her fans will like this book too. Adolescence is clearly portrayed, as well as the private school scene. You know, love that will never work out, bullies, insecurity, vicious frenemies and all that stuff. Then, Kate the mother, is also a character that many will relate to. Single mother, highly motivated to be successful in her career and balance that with giving her daughter quality time. Always feeling like she hasn’t done the best job she could, as a mother, and blaming herself for Amelia’s problems. (less)
Disappointed. This is not 'the new Gone Girl' or a 'European Gone Girl,' whatever that means. Paul, our narrator, is difficult to like. He makes every...moreDisappointed. This is not 'the new Gone Girl' or a 'European Gone Girl,' whatever that means. Paul, our narrator, is difficult to like. He makes every effort to make readers dislike his brother Serge and his wife Babette and to an extent, even his own wife, Claire. The story is told in stages during a dinner the two couples have together. The purpose of the dinner is to discuss how they will handle a terrible act that their sons have committed. The story is ok, but I was led to believe it was a thriller--it's not. At least it wasn't too me. To me it was just another morality tale.(less)
Set in New York’s Adirondack Mountains, it is about a young woman who sets out to find out why her seemingly happy husband committed suicide. Better t...moreSet in New York’s Adirondack Mountains, it is about a young woman who sets out to find out why her seemingly happy husband committed suicide. Better than Gone Girl because I like the narrator and the ending.(less)
A time traveling serial killer taking directions from a house, is, in a nutshell, The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes. Harper Curtis, a drifter in Depr...moreA time traveling serial killer taking directions from a house, is, in a nutshell, The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes. Harper Curtis, a drifter in Depression-era Chicago, is down on his luck and has a bent for violence. In 1931 he kills an old woman and steals her coat for its warmth. Inside one of the pockets he finds an old key to a special house. There's a room in the house that's filled with mementos that seem familiar to him and there are names written on the wall in his handwriting. The house lets him time travel (the room is a portal) and uses him to kill certain special girls--Shining Girls.
Kirby Mazrachi is one of the Shining Girls; Harper first visits her in June 1974 when she is 6 1/2 years old. He gives her an orange plastic pony and tells her, "I'll see you when you're all grown up." In 1987, he delivers on his promise, but she survives the brutal attack. Working as an intern for the Chicago Sun-Times, she has an opportunity to learn more about Harper. Through old newspaper files, she finds out about attacks similar to her own and the weird mementos left by the bodies of those who've died through the decades. She suspects Harper, but because of the timeline (the deaths occur from 1931 through the early 1990s) she has difficulty getting others to believe her. Harper eventually learns that she is still alive and so naturally, they must meet again...(less)