Title: The Invention of Wings
Author: Sue Monk Kidd
Page Count: 373 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Tone: Moving, Authentic, Strength
The story follows Hetty “Handful” Grimke, a Charleston slave, and Sarah, the daughter of the wealthy Grimke family. The novel begins on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership over Handful, who is to be her handmaid and follows the next thirty-five years of their lives. Inspired in part by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke (a feminist, suffragist and, importantly, an abolitionist), Kidd allows herself to go beyond the record to flesh out the inner lives of all the characters, both real and imagined
These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.
The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement: 2016 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.
1. How many of you would say you enjoy historical fiction? What is it about historical fiction that you enjoy? For others, what don’t you enjoy about it?
2. Did this book meet your expectations? Why or why not?
3. Did you like the way the story was told, with each chapter going back and forth between Sarah and Handful? Why or why not?
4. In the book who needed wings and how did they obtain them? Where does the author use the image of birds and flight?
5. What qualities in Sarah, Nina, and Handful did you most admire? What other admirable characters were there in the story?
6. Understanding the time and the family Sarah was brought up in, what made Sarah desire and fight for a different life for herself, other women and slaves?
7. Sarah fought against what was expected of her throughout her life. Use your imagination and tell me what her life would have been like had she acquiesced. Could she have been happy?
8. What significance did the fleur-de-lis button hold for Sarah? What was the significance of Charlotte’s story quilt? What was the significance of the rabbit-head cane that Handful receives from Goodis? What was significant about the spirit tree?
9. What gave Handful and Sarah strength to do all that they did?
10. What does having an ally mean when facing a difficult task? Who were Sarah’s allies throughout the different times of her life? Who were Handful’s allies?
11. How are the two causes of abolition and women’s rights similar? How are they different?
12. What were some of the pivotal moments in the story? Give examples of where you saw Handful moving toward freedom. Give examples of where you saw Sarah moving toward freedom.
13. Did you find the ending satisfying?
14. If this book was made into a movie would you go see it?
Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!
Reading Group Guide on Sue Monk Kidd’s website
Hobart and William Smith Colleges’ Discussion Guide
Discussion questions from blogger, Wide Lawns
Q&A video with Oprah and Sue Monk Kidd
NPR interview with Sue Monk Kidd
More about the Grimke Sisters