Friday, October 14, 2016

#BookReview: 'The Invention of Wings' by Sue Monk Kidd

SPOILER ALERT: I'm going to spoil the ending!

I wouldn't say I "enjoyed" this book, since it made me sad and angry more than anything. For one thing, the Black men in this novel are treated brutally, and that would be bad enough if it were only historical, but obviously it's something that's a huge problem in the U.S. right now, in 2016.

That the Black women are also treated brutally is made even more unpalatable by the fact that our three main protagonists, Hetty, Charlotte, and Sky, are all such brilliant, likable women. Charlotte and Hetty are not only deeply intelligent, but also brilliant textile artists, as befits women of the Fon (also called Dahomey) people, who are known for their textile arts.

I applaud the real-life Sarah Grimke for speaking out against slavery and for the cracks she made in the glass ceiling. I really do. But the fictional version of Sarah comes across as a mediocre-to-bad abolitionist, since she can't even save her alleged "friend" from her sadist of a sister, Mary, until Hetty is 45 years old. It seems as if this novel is praising an ineffectual, if well-meaning, white woman while a brilliant Black woman languishes in captivity.

It's not exactly fair to judge women in the early Victorian period by 21st century standards, I know. But I can't really buy the story of Hetty and Sarah's supposedly deep and heartfelt friendship if Sarah is barely going to raise her finger to help her friend get free.

This book is really well-written and spellbinding, but with all the backlash against feminism and against the human rights of African-Americans that we deal with on a daily basis now, it's hard not to be angry that the wounds of the past have been festering for the last 200+ years. It's to Sue Monk Kidd's credit that she makes it so difficult to divorce fiction from reality, but my feelings are the way they are.

I checked this audio book out from my local library and was not obligated to review it in any way.

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