The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd, available in audio form at my local library. Having thoroughly enjoyed Kidd's previous book, The Mermaid Chair, (reviewed here) I was eager to take up this new offering. Kidd has such a magical way with words. They are spun like candy and create a world as vivid as anything you and I actually experience. I was immediately sucked into the world of Sarah Grimke and her slave, Hetty (Handful).
On Sarah's eleventh birthday, her mother presents her with ten-year-old Hetty, to serve as a handmaid. Sarah attempts to refuse the gift, but is forced by her parents to accept. Handful's mother, Charlotte, is a strong woman who has infused Handful with hope and pride in her stories of African slaves really being blackbirds, able to fly. This image of rising above the limitations of life and society play out through the novel in many ways in the lives of both Handful and Sarah. While Handful is held back by the institution of slavery, Sarah is kept in chains by virtue of her sex, but both have spirits that soar beyond those limitations with hopes, dreams, and convictions of their purpose in life.
One of the benefits of listening to the book in audio form is the ability to hear the narration from two different narrators, clearly articulating the white and black dialect and vocal inflections. Chapters weave back and forth between Sarah's account and Handful's account. Another benefit comes in the form of an author's note, read by Sue Monk Kidd, at the end of the audio presentation. Within those tracks, we hear what prompted the story within the author's imagination, what parts were based in fact, and what parts were fabrication for the benefit of conveying the story. Sarah and her sister, Angelina, were actual female abolitionists in Charleston and much of the story is historically accurate.
Although the book is long (11 discs presenting 13.5 hours of narration), I never tired of the story. Moreover, because it covers such a long span of time (35 years), it ambled a bit, but still managed to keep me engrossed in the tale. I own a copy of The Secret Life of Bees, but I'm hoping to find a time, later this year, when I may check out the audio version of that Sue Monk Kidd book. She is an author I trust to provide beautiful prose and an intriguing story.
Note: The link above will lead you to the audio version on Amazon, as several reviewers expressed great frustration with the Oprah Book Club version. I guess Oprah's notes interrupted the flow of the story and many people preferred to read without those notes. I can only highly recommend the same audio version I experienced.