The Invention of Wings

A Court of Books of Bullshit – book 2

Willow here. If you read our last post about The Goddess in the Machine, then you’ll know I devoured it in less than two weeks, while it took Lauren the full four. Despite her jesting that I’d read the next one just as quickly, it was completely the other way around this time.

Let me raise my hand and confess, oh friend. When Lauren proposed that we should read The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd, I had to tell my stomach not to clench with dread. I must seek new worlds. Diversify.

Not only am I resistant to picking up literary fiction, but I also prefer to read non-fiction accounts about the darker parts of history, often because I will spend a whole week crying after being subjected to the brutality of real life in a deep-dive drama experience. I don’t read fictional slave books, I definitely don’t watch films. I cannot cope with reliving it through such intimate viewpoints. Give me the non-fiction, please.

From the British Library on Unsplash

So, I was gratefully surprised to find I enjoyed reading this book. Kidd has an excellent, enviable way of writing both simply and yet with great metaphorical beauty. Also, she’s very funny. I particularly enjoyed how flawed Sarah was – even if it’s fictional. Her character development showed a real understanding of complacency and privilege and the difficult journey from pity to empathy to compassion.

Whilst it didn’t shy away from the terrible crimes of slavery, it also did not turn them into a gruesome, gruelling experience. Maybe that makes you mad, that’s okay, I do understand. But I don’t understand watching very real torture or abuse blow-by-blow in order to claim that’s how I’ll feel empathy for someone.

Kidd skewed history in places, as she explains in her author note at the end, but I learnt so much about the Grimké sisters. They’re the kind of figures we berate ourselves for never knowing beforehand – vehement advocates for slaves’ immediate emancipation and the first verbal American speakers for feminism. I feel I learned important things.

I enjoyed it so much, I bought my own copy 200 pages in and started highlighting my favourite passages. HOW COULD YOU? ye cry, DEFILE A BOOK? With glee, my friend. With glee. It helped me hone in as a conscientious reader about why I loved things so much.

I’ll include a summary of the highlights at the end of this post if you’re curious to know what I’ve flagged as ‘cracking sentences.’ Altogether, I highlighted other marks for ‘poignant images,’ and ‘culmination of a great scene.’ I think my favourite of the latter, however, is when Sarah’s father bans her from the library and she sees him in a whole new light for the first time. It was a shattering of innocence and very cleverly showed how some moments completely shift your understanding of the world.

I think my favourite point of discussion with Lauren was “what illustrations would you give this book?” We agreed it would be a wonderful motif if each of Handful’s chapters ended with one of Charlotte’s story quilt squares. For Sarah, who places importance on small items, it would be nice to see an illustration of an object mentioned in the chapter, e.g. the button, the Joan of Arc book, the glass chandelier, her lock of hair, the painting of the Fates. The list goes on!

Overall, I loved the story, the way it was written, and what it had to teach me.

I better pass the mic to Lauren now.

Story quilt by African American artist Chris Clark

Testing, testing, one-two-three.

Well, I was pretty worried that Willow would hate this book and I’d get myself thrown out of our book club. No AI bad-ass bitches, no magic, no cryogenic pods. Just a story about slavery, potentially very depressing, with a strong chance of putting a dampener on our cheery little book club. I was in deep poop.

Luckily, I relaxed when, only a few pages in, I began laughing out loud at the things one of the characters kept coming out with.

After we finished the book we came to the conclusion: Sue Monk Kidd is one clever cookie. Her characters are complex, evolving and enjoyable to read about. I loved the character Handful, who was honest, brave and hilarious – I kept picking the book up wanting to follow her story.

I didn’t have much to say in our chats other than: I liked it, I love Handful, and it was funny when she said that thing about bacon. Luckily, Willow was able to pinpoint some of the best sentences:

Cracking sentences – spoiler warning

All extracts are taken from the paperback Great British 2021 edition by Tinder Press.

Missus called out to Tomfry, said keep it down, a lady shouldn’t know where her bacon comes from. When we heard that, I told Aunt-Sister, missus didn’t know what end her bacon went in and what end it came out. Aunt-Sister slapped me into yesterday.

page 7

Uh huh. I could tell from missus’ face, there’s bad, there’s worse, and after that comes abysmal.

page 31

Handful would’ve heard everything. The thought comforted me. There’s no pain on earth that doesn’t crave a benevolent witness.

page 91

‘So we just the same, me and you? That’s why you the one to shit in the pot and I’m the one to empty it?’

page 100

My tongue would once again attempt its suicide.

page 130

Sarah was up in her room with her heart broke so bad, Binah said you could hear it jangle when she walked.

page 152

‘Well done, Hetty. I’m sure you know how much it grieved me to send you to the Work House.’
I nodded to let her know what a heavy burden this must’ve been for her.

page 196

White folks think you care about everything in the world that happens to them, every time they stub their toe.

page 196

Her criticisms of me were similar to her prayers – sacred, daily, and unsmiling.

page 263

But then, releasing my hand, he rose from the divan and whatever errant thought had wriggled from his heart returned to it, repentant and undeclared.

page 312

Be consoled in knowing that the world depends upon the small beating of your heart.

page 338

I feared I would love him the rest of my life, that I would always wonder what it would’ve been like to spend my life with him at Green Hill. I longed for it in that excruciating way one has of romanticizing the life she didn’t choose.

page 338

She’d been boiled down to a good, strong broth.

page 406

So, another success! We’re both pretty excited about the next one: A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer. Until next time…


2 thoughts on “The Invention of Wings”

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