The Invention of Wings: Seeking Freedom

On the eve of the 4th of July, a holiday that celebrates freedom, it seems appropriate to review a book that explores freedom.

Sue Monk Kidd’s Invention of Wings is a stirring, inspirational story centering on the universal human quest for freedom. Set in early nineteenth century Charleston, the historical novel explores the intertwined lives of two girls who challenge the injustices of slavery and oppression.

As the book opens, Hetty (“Handful”) Grimke, a ten-year old slave, recalls her mother’s story about her African ancestors who had wings that helped them fly over trees and clouds. Handful’s mother tells her that one day, Handful will gain her wings and fly to freedom.

Sarah Grimke, a white girl from a prominent, wealthy Charleston family, receives Handful as a gift for her eleventh birthday. Horrified, Sarah attempts to disclaim the gift in front of the family guests at her party. She later vows to help Handful get free.

Over the next 35 years, both girls struggle to find their wings. While Handful’s struggle is obvious and brutal, Sarah’s is one of mind and spirit, as she has a driving desire to be a lawyer, unthinkable and unattainable for a woman at that time.

Historical fiction helps us learn about history as we enter into the real and imagined stories of those who lived before us. I find myself grateful for the courage and sacrifice of those who enabled me, centuries later, to have a voice, obtain a law degree, and follow my dreams. With the Source of Love as our guide, we are invited to continue the work of freedom today, often in less obvious ways.