The Invention of Wings: A Novel

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Overview

From the celebrated author of The Secret Life of Bees, a magnificent novel about two unforgettable American women
 
 
Writing at the height of her narrative and imaginative gifts, Sue Monk Kidd presents a masterpiece of hope, daring, the quest for freedom, and the desire to have a voice in the world—and it is now the newest Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 selection.

...

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Overview

From the celebrated author of The Secret Life of Bees, a magnificent novel about two unforgettable American women
 
 
Writing at the height of her narrative and imaginative gifts, Sue Monk Kidd presents a masterpiece of hope, daring, the quest for freedom, and the desire to have a voice in the world—and it is now the newest Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 selection.

Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.

As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.

Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.

This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.

 

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Audio
02/24/2014
Kidd’s novel spans more than three decades and follows the lives of “Handful”—a 10-year-old slave living in Charleston in the early 19th-century with the Grimké family—and Sarah Grimké—the remarkable daughter of the house, whom, on her 11th birthday, is given Handful as a gift. Oduye and Lamia share the narration in this audio edition, with the former reading Handful’s sections of the book and the latter handling Sarah’s. Oduye skillfully captures the essence of Handful. Her pacing, tone, and annunciation are just right, and the southern accent she reads with pitch perfect. Lamia turns in an equally enjoyable performance. Her airy narration, steady pacing, and southern accent more than do justice to Sarah. Fans of Kidd’s novel will be delighted. A Viking hardcover. (Jan.)
Publishers Weekly
10/21/2013
Sarah and Handful Grimké split the narration in Kidd’s third novel, set in pre–Civil War Charleston, S.C., and along an abolitionist lecture circuit in New England. Kidd (The Secret Life of Bees) is no stranger to strong female characters. Here, her inspiration is the real Sarah Grimké, daughter of an elite Charleston family, who fought for abolition and women’s rights. Handful, Kidd’s creation, is Sarah’s childhood handmaid. The girls are friends. Sarah teaches Handful to read, and proclaims loudly at dinner that she opposes slavery. However, after being severely punished, she abandons her aspirations—for decades. Time passes, and Handful is given the freedoms she was formerly denied. The book’s scope of 30-plus years contributes to a feeling of plodding in the middle section. Particularly insufferable is the constant allusion, by both women, to a tarnished button that symbolizes perseverance. But Kidd rewards the patient reader. Male abolitionists, preachers, and Quakers repeatedly express sexist views, and in this context, Sarah’s eventual outspokenness is incredibly satisfying to read. And Handful, after suffering a horrific punishment, makes an invaluable contribution to an attempted slave rebellion. Bolstered by female mentors, Kidd’s heroines finally act on Sarah’s blunt realization: “We can do little for the slave as long as we’re under the feet of men.” Agent: Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, WME Entertainment. (Jan.)
Library Journal
★ 11/01/2013
Women played a large role in the fledgling abolitionist movement preceding the Civil War by several decades but were shushed by their male compatriots if they pointed out their own subservient status. One of several recent novels noting the similarity between women having few rights and slaves having none in the pre-Civil War American South (others include Marlen Suyapa Bodden's The Wedding Gift and Jessica Maria Tuccelli's Glow), Monk's (The Secret Life of Bees) compelling work of historical fiction stands out from the rest because of its layers of imaginative details of the lives of actual abolitionists from Charleston, SC—Sarah and Angelina Grimké—and Handful, a young slave in their family home. With her far more desperate desire for freedom, Handful steals the story from the two freethinking sisters while they wrestle with their consciences for years, still bound by society's strictures. VERDICT This richly imagined narrative brings both black history and women's history to life with an unsentimental story of two women who became sisters under the skin—Handful, a slave in body whose mind roves freely and widely, and "owner" Sarah, whose mind is shackled by family and society. [See Prepub Alert, 7/8/13.]—Laurie Cavanaugh, Holmes P.L., Halifax, MA
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2013-10-05
Kidd (The Mermaid Chair, 2005, etc.) hits her stride and avoids sentimental revisionism with this historical novel about the relationship between a slave and the daughter of slave owners in antebellum Charleston. Sarah Grimké was an actual early abolitionist and feminist whose upbringing in a slaveholding Southern family made her voice particularly controversial. Kidd re-imagines Sarah's life in tandem with that of a slave in the Grimké household. In 1803, 11-year-old Sarah receives a slave as her birthday present from her wealthy Charleston parents. Called Hetty by the whites, Handful is just what her name implies--sharp tongued and spirited. Precocious Sarah is horrified at the idea of owning a slave but is given no choice by her mother, a conventional Southern woman of her time who is not evil but accepts slavery (and the dehumanizing cruelties that go along with it) as a God-given right. Soon, Sarah and Handful have established a bond built on affection and guilt. Sarah breaks the law by secretly teaching Handful to read and write. When they are caught, Handful receives a lashing, while Sarah is banned from her father's library and all the books therein, her dream of becoming a lawyer dashed. As Sarah and Handful mature, their lives take separate courses. While Handful is physically imprisoned, she maintains her independent spirit, while Sarah has difficulty living her abstract values in her actual life. Eventually, she escapes to Philadelphia and becomes a Quaker, until the Quakers prove too conservative. As Sarah's activism gives her new freedom, Handful's life only becomes harder in the Grimké household. Through her mother, Handful gets to know Denmark Vesey, who dies as a martyr after attempting to organize a slave uprising. Sarah visits less and less often, but the bond between the two women continues until it is tested one last time. Kidd's portrait of white slave-owning Southerners is all the more harrowing for showing them as morally complicated, while she gives Handful the dignity of being not simply a victim, but a strong, imperfect woman.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781611762525
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 1/7/2014
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Sales rank: 36,645
  • Product dimensions: 7.10 (w) x 6.40 (h) x 1.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Sue Monk Kidd

Sue Monk Kidd is the award-winning and bestselling author of the novels The Secret Life of Bees and The Mermaid Chair. She is also the author of several acclaimed memoirs, including the New York Times bestseller Traveling with Pomegranates, written with her daughter Ann Kidd Taylor. She lives in Florida.

Biography

Sue Monk Kidd first made her mark on the literary circuit with a pair of highly acclaimed, well-loved memoirs detailing her personal spiritual development. However, it was a work of fiction, The Secret Life of Bees, that truly solidified her place among contemporary writers. Although Kidd is no longer writing memoirs, her fiction is still playing an important role in her on-going journey of spiritual self-discovery.

Despite the fact that Kidd's first published books were nonfiction works, her infatuation with writing grew out of old-fashioned, Southern-yarn spinning. As a little girl in the little town of Sylvester, Georgia, Kidd thrilled to listen to her father tell stories about "mules who went through cafeteria lines and a petulant boy named Chewing Gum Bum," as she says on her web site. Inspired by her dad's tall tales, Kidd began keeping a journal that chronicled her everyday experiences.

Such self-scrutiny surely gave her the tools she needed to pen such keenly insightful memoirs as When the Hearts Waits and The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, both tracking her development as both a Christian and a woman. "I think when you have an impulse to write memoir you are having an opportunity to create meaning of your life," she told Barnes & Noble.com, "to articulate your experience; to understand it in deeper ways... and after a while, it does free you from yourself, of having to write about yourself, which it eventually did for me."

Once Kidd had worked the need to write about herself out of her system, she decided to get back to the kind of storytelling that inspired her to become a writer in the first place. Her debut novel The Secret Life of Bees showed just how powerfully the gift of storytelling charges through Kidd's veins. The novel has sold more than 4.5 million copies, been published in over twenty languages, and spent over two years on The New York Times bestseller list.

Even as Kidd has shifted her focus from autobiography to fiction, she still uses her writing as a means of self-discovery. This is especially evident in her latest novel The Mermaid Chair, which tells the story of a woman named Jessie who lives a rather ordinary life with her husband Hugh until she meets a man about to take his final vows at a Benedictine monastery. Her budding infatuation with Brother Thomas leads Jessie to take stock of her life and resolve an increasingly intense personal tug-of-war between marital fidelity and desire.

Kidd feels that through telling Jessie's story, she is also continuing her own journey of self-discovery, which she began when writing her first books. "I think there is some part of that journey towards one's self that I did experience. I told that particular story in my book The Dance of the Dissident Daughter and it is the story of a woman's very-fierce longing for herself. The character in The Mermaid Chair Jessie has this need to come home to herself in a much deeper way," Kidd said, "to define herself, and I certainly know that longing."

Good To Know

Kidd lives beside a salt marsh near Charleston, South Carolina, with her husband, Sandy, a marriage and individual counselor in private practice, and a black lab named Lily.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 427 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(241)

4 Star

(102)

3 Star

(30)

2 Star

(25)

1 Star

(29)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 427 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 7, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair a

    I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review – but OMG was I excited when I did receive it because it’s an Oprah’s Book pick and I read alllll of her choices!

    The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd is the kind of book that makes you want to be a better person.

    The newest Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 pick is incredibly moving. The story is told in dual narrative, following Sarah Grimke and a slave named Hetty “Handful” Grimke in the 1800s.

    Sarah is given Hetty as a gift for her eleventh birthday, and even at that young age, Sarah believes that slavery is immoral. But Sarah is caught in the Charleston upper class lifestyle and is useless in making a change. So she rebels the way she can, giving Hetty the freedom of literacy.
    Sarah evolves, trying to turn into someone she wants to be: a strong, independent woman, but her dreams are pushed down by everyone, including her family.

    Only when Sarah leaves the comforts of the South does she truly begin to understand the power that individual voices can have.

    At the same time, Hetty changes from young, rebellious slave girl to becoming a strong, still rebellious, woman.

    Both Sarah and Hetty’s stories are mesmerizing. Hetty is such a strong, spunky character who was so much like her mother: unwilling to bow down to every need and want from the master/missus.

    And then Sarah went fully against her own culture and society in order to fight for what she believed in – equality of all people, no matter the sex or race.

    Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings is a book that makes me want to get out there and make a difference, to take a stand for a cause I truly believe it.

    The Invention of Wings is inspirational. So pick up this novel and get a little inspired yourself.

    What cause do you think is necessary to fight for?

    Thanks for reading, 

    Rebecca @ Love at First Book

    42 out of 53 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2014

    I find the "highlighted by Oprah" text to be very dist

    I find the "highlighted by Oprah" text to be very distracting to the reading of this book.  I would not have purchased it if I had understood that all the highlighted text would hinder my reading and enjoyment of this book.  Won't purchase books with this "feature" again.  How do I get a copy without the distracting highlighting?

    38 out of 45 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2014

    So far, I am only on page 29, but love the book! The only thing

    So far, I am only on page 29, but love the book! The only thing that is frustrating for me is that I purchased this for my Nook, and the blue text hyperlinks keep sending me to the Oprah notes at the back of the book! So you have to be very, very careful when "turning" the pages with the blue hyperlinks....I discovered this when I had to find page 10 four times!!! Hopefully, the publisher will fix this soon, because otherwise, it is going to take me a really long time to finish this book!

    26 out of 27 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 8, 2014

    Somehow I have missed reading Sue Monk Kidd's previous novels. M

    Somehow I have missed reading Sue Monk Kidd's previous novels. My sister handed me an advance copy of 'The Invention of Wings' on Christmas Eve. I finished it four days later and can't wait to read Mrs. Kidd's other work! This novel has stayed with me. The characters, Sarah and Handful, are beautifully developed... their stories intertwined, yet separate. The horrors of slavery and the attitudes toward women of that period, both black and white, are shocking and at times difficult to read. The beauty of Charlotte and Handful's bond and that of the Grimke sisters balances the novel. Strong writing, well researched (read Mrs. Kidd's comments at the end of the text) , haunting, thought provoking, and spiritual...I gladly give this novel 5 stars!

    22 out of 25 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 19, 2014

    This is a *wonderful* book, fully as good as The Life of Bees.

    This is a *wonderful* book, fully as good as The Life of Bees. This edition, however, includes long passages that are underlined with an "O" at the end, denoting a comment by, supposedly, Oprah. Because I find this highlighting to be distracting, spoiling the flow of the wonderfully written prose, I have given this edition a three star rating instead of the five the book deserves. The comments are banal and do not add to the story. I think the publisher made a mistake in this format. Surely the Oprah comments could be included in some other way to be less distracting. I wish there were an unannotated version available.

    13 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 10, 2014

    A Big, Satisfying Read.

    A Big, Satisfying Read. I have read Kidd's non fiction text with her daughter as well as 'Secret Life of Bee's' and 'Mermaid's Chair'; while I have always appreciated the writing talent in those books, I was never crazy about them--especially 'Mermaid.' But I opened this, curious, and ended up staying up almost all night finishing. This is a big, 'juicy' novel--it moves at a great pace with characters/plot that grab you, and keep you, virtually from the first page. The story of Sarah and her 'gift,' 10 year old Hetty (Handful) is not a warm and fuzzy story, however. Kidd does not back down from the horror and brutality of slavery and there are long stretches where the women are not even in the same place. However, their bond is never entirely destroyed--and from Sarah's desperate attempts to live an independent life to the (sometimes literal) shackles that hold Handful in slavery--Kidd shows how all women at this time were oppressed in different ways. My only quibble is about the ending--it seems to come off too suddenly and leaves some questions in light of what has come before. Yet that is minor--this is not a book to easily forget; these are powerful characters. Indeed, Handful's mother, Charlotte, could have been an entire novel in herself. Book clubs will devour this as well individuals; get it.

    12 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 21, 2014

    I found the highlighted notes by Oprah to be extremely distracti

    I found the highlighted notes by Oprah to be extremely distracting, thus robbing me of the enjoyment of reading this book.
    Rather unfortunate, as there doesn't seem to be another version of this nook book available.

    11 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2014

    Great read with historical signifigance

    As I read, I looked up some of the historical characters, only to find that almost everyone in the book actually existed. Why had I never heard of the Grimke sisters? You will enjoy this book and come to love the characters, most of whom were important in early 19th century abolition efforts and were ahead of their time in feminist rights.

    11 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2014

    Wonderful book! I loved it from the very first chapter, and cou


    Wonderful book! I loved it from the very first chapter, and couldn't put it down once I started. The story is gripping but sweet, sad but intriguing...and made me laugh sometimes too. The author did a wonderful job writing Hetty's story, as well as Sarah's.
    Note: I did NOT read this because it's an Oprah book club pick.

    I lost respect for Oprah when she went crazy over Obama and endorsed him with everything she had. And most of her books are not on my to-read list. This book was good because of Sue Monk Kidd's writing.

    11 out of 22 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2014

    Didn't finish; got tired of Oprah in the first quarter. Don't ca

    Didn't finish; got tired of Oprah in the first quarter. Don't care what OW thought was meaningful or how she was moved.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 17, 2014

    I loved this book.  I understand the author did a lot of researc

    I loved this book.  I understand the author did a lot of research before writing her novel.  If one researches the names they will find these are real people that lived during this unforgivable time and for someone to say it is all lies they must not know their history.  It must have taken a lot to fight slavery when it was accepted by so many, these sisters were way ahead of their time.  Love2learn 

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2014

    Grest read!

    I am a fan of this author, I loved this book! Must read!

    8 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2014

    Really?

    Really Barnes and Noble? Don't include copyright, contents, etc. as part of the samples. This was a five page sample and hardly enough for a reader to make a decision to purchase the book or not. This seriously has me wondering if I should have gone with Kindle instead of Nook.
    '

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2014

    My review is for the Nook version only, and my rating is solely

    My review is for the Nook version only, and my rating is solely based on the ridiculous hyperlinked/underlined blue font. I almost didn't buy this book once Oprah named it one of her book picks because I can't stand her, and now I wish I hadn't bought this book. Please sell this book in Nook format without the ridiculous Oprah highlighting or whatever it is. I'd ask for my money back, but I'm still waiting on those eBook credits Barnes and Noble was supposed to send out OVER A YEAR AGO, so I'm sure there's no way I'd get a refund for this book.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 12, 2014

    A really, really great book, the one you'll never forget, the on

    A really, really great book, the one you'll never forget, the one you want all of your daughters and friends to read, the one you'll read again because it's that kind of book_ that describes how I feel about The Invention of Wings. I live in Charleston and now have a new path to explore the next time I venture through the peninsula.  Thank you, Sue Monk Kidd, for this treasure of a book. 

    7 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 2, 2014

    I Also Recommend:

    The Invention of Wings is loaded with inspiration and is for tho

    The Invention of Wings is loaded with inspiration and is for those who like to read books that make you want to make a difference and be a better person. There are many layers and may warrant a second reading in order to absorb every well-chosen word. This is one of those books that make you grateful for the life you have. The strong characters, Sarah and Handful, mold the story perfectly. I foresee that this book will be another haunting and thought-provoking success. I highly recommend.


    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 6, 2014

    Based on real, but not widely known historical figures, The Inve

    Based on real, but not widely known historical figures, The Invention of Wings is a poignant, imaginative tale of two sisters in early eighteen-hundred Charleston born into the power and wealth of Charleston’s aristocracy; and a slave named Handful who yearns for freedom. With them the reader embarks on an extensive, yet deeply riveting, journey as these two Grimké sisters undergo a painful metamorphosis breaking from their family, their religion, their homeland, and their traditions, to become exiles, and eventually pariahs, as they crusade not only for the immediate emancipation of slaves, but also for racial equality - an idea that was radical even among their fellow abolitionists.

    This is a novel with many, many layers, and not one that should be read in the span of a single afternoon. From the very beginning it is clear that the author did her research magnificently as she brings to life and stays true to the contours of Sarah Grimké’s history, her desires, struggles, motivations, crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, loneliness, self-doubt, ostracism, and her suffocating speech impediment. Simultaneously the reader is also thrust into Handful’s world. A world regulated by passes, searches, laws and edicts that controls every second of a slave’s life. An existence enforced by sheer brutality where slaves live in fear of being sent off to the Work House for the slightest perceived defiance of their masters, the City Guard, night watch, curfew, and vigilante committees.

    On her eleventh birthday, Sarah is given a ten-year-old slave, named Handful, to be her waiting maid. Defying the laws of South Carolina and her own jurist father who had helped to write those laws, Sarah teaches Handful to read, for which they are later both harshly punished. Of course, this doesn’t stop Sarah from wanting freedom for Handful and all the other slaves, but instead strengthens her resolve to expedite freedom for Handful by secretly continuing to teach her to read. Over time, these two women form an unusual bond which will bind them and serve as their foundation of trust, loyalty, and comfort for years to come. Although their struggles cannot be compared, Sarah and Handful’s lives are paralleled in their pursuit of freedom, albeit a desire for a different kind of freedom. Handful wishes for a life where she and her mother can live their lives on their own terms and make their own choices, whereas Sarah has an intense desire for a vocation, but is restricted to do so by the laws set in place by men.  Once Sarah’s sister, Angelina, is born and Sarah becomes her godmother, Nina is influenced by Sarah’s anti-slavery views which will ultimately shape her into becoming a formidable abolitionist. 

    I can’t express enough how deeply moved I was by the courage and fearlessness of these three women. Even though the story is told in alternating voices between Handful and Sarah, Angelina’s voice isn’t lost, and there are several secondary characters whose voices will leave a lasting impression on many readers. Supporting characters worth mentioning includes Sarah and Angelina’s devout, intolerant mother who is visibly undemonstrative in her affections towards her children, and often malicious to her slaves, inflicting on them severe and cruel punishments. And then there is Handful’s mother, Charlotte, who in her own subtle way proves to be a defiant, vengeful slave on whose bad side you don’t want to find yourself, but who is also the picture of endurance, strength, and resilience. Justifiably, her spiteful actions and behavior stems from continually having to endure abuse and acts of human depravity that defies the imagination.

    But let me cut myself short. The Invention of Wings is for fans who enjoyed The Help by Katherine Stockett, and Sue Monk-Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees. It’s a glorious treasure trove of metaphors about how we define ourselves and how far we will go to stand up for what we believe in with all our hearts. The author’s interpretation of Sarah and Angelina Grimké’s lives, and their imaginary relationship with the fictional character, Handful, serves as inspiration on how to invent your wings in spite of the difficulties life sometimes have in store for us. In truth, I think everyone will take away something different from this book after reading it. I can’t fault anything in this story - characters, world-building, plot, narrative...anything. Everything was perfect. Even the minuscule amount of romance that was only a mere mention in the background was well-written and tastefully presented. Seriously, you want to read this. Now. Go!

    6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2014

    Like Reading a Used Book - Let the Buyer Beware

    I just started this book and it may be a wonderful book, but I was immediately turned off at all the underlined passages (entire paragraphs and sometimes pages) linking to Oprah's comments. Very distracting, like reading a used book that someone has underlined and made notes in. I prefer to read my books "unadulterated" and to choose whether or not I want to read others' comments. If there is a way to turn off the underlining, I'd sure like to know. A footnote symbol at the end of the passage (which is there too) would suffice to direct the reader to comments if interested and would be much less intrusive. Now I know not to purchase another ebook that says "Oprah's Book Club 2.0 Digital Edition."

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2014

    Bad

    I read part of this book and quit because of overwhelming lies in it. I know it is supposed to be fiction, but writing such lies about the degree of the horror of slavery and saying that everyone suffered it is just stirring the racial pot. I threw my book in the trash and had to gargle to wash the bad taste oit of my mouth. It was atrocious.

    5 out of 75 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2014

    I have not read this book yet, but plan to. I am writing today

    I have not read this book yet, but plan to. I am writing today asking for B&N to read "reviews" before they are put on the site. There are so many entries that have nothing to do with the book it is hard to believe the ratings. Think about where you are writing before hit send. If there really is a Damon out there, do you really think this is the right forum for your problems?

    4 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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