The Invention of Wings - Sue Monk Kidd


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I was excited to discover that this book club selection was also on my personal list of books to read!  The author has a good reputation as the author also of The Secret Life of Bees.  I think I saw the movie and enjoyed it.  Once I got the description - a book about a young slave girl and her relationship with a young white girl in the house where she serves - my expectations were lowered a bit.  Only five months ago we read Yellow Crocus which was a similar tale.  And right around that time I listened to Isabelle Allende's Island Beneath the Sea.  So it seemed redundant but I plowed ahead, hoping the aforementioned pluses would outweigh the redundancy.  Once I began the book and saw that it was told in two voices it had another redundancy with the previous book we read, Orphan Train, which was also told in two voices.  (Not to mention the three-name names of the authors.)  So, honestly, I wasn't thrilled by the book - until I got to the end.  Once I read the Author's Notes much was redeemed because I discovered that the book was historical fiction and I always love learning a little bit of history in an enjoyable setting.

On a scale of 1 - 5:

Sex:  1

Religion:  4

Gruesome:  2

Suspense:  1

Morality:  5

Sex - sex is mentioned in round-about ways or euphemisms a couple of times but it happens off of the pages

Religion - the book has deep religious threads as characters question their faith, change faith, and challenge their faith

Gruesome - some of the things that were done to the slaves were gruesome, I think Mrs. Kidd spared us many details

Suspense - I found nothing to be of a suspenseful nature, more idle curiosities

Morality - several times religion and slave ownership are poised against each other and it is certainly a thread that is woven throughout the book



Discussion Questions

Discuss the psychology of Charlotte stealing the green silk "cause [she] could" (p. 70).  Handful explained, "[She] didn't want that cloth, she just wanted to make some trouble.  She couldn't get free and she couldn't pop missus on the back of her head with a cane, but she could take her silk.  You do your rebellions any way you can." (p. 71)

Read Ephesians 6:8-9 and Colossians 4:1.  Discuss whether or not God condones slavery.

On p. 144 Mrs. Grimke tells Sarah she was "being broken like a horse" and that she should, "give [her]self over to [her] duty and [her] fate and make whatever happiness [she] can."  It seems harsh but could this help society today?

What personal aspirations have "been laid to rest in the Graveyard of Failed Hopes, an all-female establishment"?  (p. 155)

Mr. Vesey "didn't like any kind of talk about heaven.  He said that was the coward's way, pining for life in the hereafter."  (p. 282)  Agree or disagree?

How did Sarah (and Nina) turn out opposed to slavery when their family supported it?  What differing opinions did you have from your family growing up?

Sarah ached to know what her point in the world might be.  What is your point?  When/How did you discover it?  (ref. p. 446)

"Why would God plant such deep yearnings in us...if they only come to nothing?" (p. 477)

How did you feel about the potential marriage between Israel and Sarah?  Should it have been?  Did she make the right choice?  Why or why not?

Charlotte got the last word about how Handful would remember her. (p. 526)  What would you tell your children to remember you for?

Insincere Quakers - Sarah and Nina hated the style of dress and felt the absence of finer things.  Grace made fancy hats she couldn't wear.  Why be Quakers, especially after they spoke out?

Sarah said she didn't want to be married to Israel anymore yet she still grieved for what might've been. (p. 590)  What have you given up on that you still grieve for?

When Sarah went home to visit her mother, "irrational childish feelings" (p. 608) came back to her.  What childish feelings haunt you?  When do they appear?

When Sarah finally stood up to Mary and her mother she wondered, "was it ever right to sacrifice one's truth for expedience?"  (p. 610)  when she thought holding her tongue might win her mother over.  Is it?

Theme Ideas

Serve:  crab pies, veal, buttered shrimp, fried whiting, omelet soufflé and sweet macaroons with almond ice (p. 140).

Serve custard and Huguenot tortes like at the balls Sarah attended. (p. 162)  Dragoon punch (p. 163) (tea, whiskey, rum, cherries, orange slice, lemon wedge). 

Serve Charlotte Russe dessert, French wines, brandy and Madeira like at the concert when Sarah got engaged (p. 217).

Serve "bird nest pudding" (p. 246) ("whole apples with custard poured round them").

Serve Sarah's "favored dessert, a two-tiered election cake, filled with currants and sugar". (p. 254)

Serve rice pudding like Aunt Sister made to cheer Sarah up. (p. 362)

Serve corn fritters like Handful smelled "half a block from Denmark Vesey's house" (p. 388).  Serve with sorghum like she brought for him.

Recreate the picnic for Becky's seventh birthday:  white cloth, boiled eggs, carrots, bread (two loaves), apple butter and cottage or cream cheese (from boiled strained cream) and gingerbread.  (p. 404)

Serve mince pies like Mrs. Whittier made when Theodore, Elizeir Wright and her son John came to visit.  (p. 575)

Try to get a copy of American Slavery As It Is by Grimke or a coffee table book about slave quilts.  Consider making a story quilt as a group.
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