Between the Lines Book Club: The Invention of Wings

between the lines book club logoRead fast, book clubbers, because this month our in-person book club is on November 16th !  We’ll be discussing The Invention of Wings at Arden Dimick Library in Sacramento, at 2PM.  Of course you can also leave a comment every Friday about the book right here!

The Invention of Wings tells two, intertwined stories, very loosely based on historical fact.  When Sarah Grimke was eleven years old, she was given an eleven year old slave as a birthday present.   Sarah grew up to be an ardent abolitionist and women’s rights activist.  The fate of the little girl who was gifted to her is unknown.  Sue Monk Kidd invents a powerful story for the little girl, named Handful, and uses a mix of fact and imagination to create a version of Sarah’s life.  The two girls go through life in parallel but not always together, as Sarah goes to the North and leaves Handful behind.


My favorite thing about this book is the language.  Here’s some phrases I noticed:

  • “A malicious headache”  – Sarah’s mother
  • “heart broke so bad you could hear it jangle when she walked” – Handful, describing Sarah
  • “severe and terrible mercy” – Sarah
  • “She’s been boiled down to a good, strong broth” – Handful
  • “My heart had been beat to butter” – Handful
  • “He has been shaken from the lap of Charleston like a salad napkin” – Sarah

The other thing I loved was that Handful has her own story, and it’s given as much weight and time and narrative importance as Sarah’s – in fact, I found Handful’s story much more compelling than Sarah’s.  In her first book, The Secret Language of Bees, Kidd had a white protagonist who becomes involved with a group of black women.  Their stories were told through the white protagonist’s eyes and she had the primary narrative.  It’s very common to have stories about minorities told though Caucasian eyes and that’s particularly problematic when their stories become props for the white protagonist’s story.  The Invention of Wings avoids this by having half of the book narrated by Handful, by not having the two women together all the time, and by ensuring that Handful has her own plot.

Sue Monk Kidd has a great website with tons of supplemental material, including an interview and recipes (mmmmmm recipes!).  You can find it at

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