The Invention of Wings

Version: Unabridged
Author: Sue Monk Kidd
Narrator: Jenna Lamia , Adepero Oduye
Genres: Literature, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Penguin Audiobooks
Published In: September 2017
# of Units: 12 CDs
Length: 13 hours, 30 minutes
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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.

Reviews (40)

Written by Wooley O. on May 22nd, 2020

  • Book Rating: 5/5

Well done Sue for bringing the Grimke sisters to life.


Written by Elvira L. on May 12th, 2020

  • Book Rating: 4/5

I recommend the book. Some of the parts are difficult to listen to because of the severity of human behavior. Stay with the book as this is how we witness the stories of suffering people. My hearts is wiser and softer because of the stories of these enduring women.

Written by Cynthia Rogers on May 5th, 2020

  • Book Rating: 5/5

There were many wings in this book the challenges of the day rules laws promoting ways to live are all were under scrutiny So the wings that were invented were based on history from Charleston South Carolina slavery women’s rights It was in chanting book she’s a fabulous writer Sue Monk Kidd

Written by Kerrie R. on May 3rd, 2020

  • Book Rating: 5/5

Brilliant and beautiful. Will listen to this book again very soon.


Written by Kelly G. on January 16th, 2020

  • Book Rating: 5/5

Excellent book and narration - I highly recommend!


Written by Jamie Z. on December 23rd, 2019

  • Book Rating: 5/5

One of my all-time favorite books, wow. i loved the two main characters, and how the story was alternately told through them. The two he readers were both outstanding. So well-written and researched. Hearing the author talk at the end about her process in writing the book, and how much was historically accurate and true in the story, added so much and helped satisfy my curiosity and desire for MORE. I learned a great deal about slavery, both intellectually and emotionally. Thank you author and narrators!


Written by Cathy D. on August 14th, 2019

  • Book Rating: 5/5

Amazing. I was so sad when the book ended. Not sure what I enjoyed more...the story or the narrators. Just lovely.


Written by Pam R. on November 28th, 2018

  • Book Rating: 5/5

Painful because of the nature of the story but very well written and the narrators were very good. Probably one of my favorites so far!

Written by Caroline H on March 3rd, 2018

  • Book Rating: 5/5

Thanks to outstanding writing and skilled narration, I found myself immersed in the lives of Sarah, Charlotte, Handful, and Nina from the very first words to the final page. Sue Monk Kidd brings Charleston to life like few others, and her thoughtful, colourful descriptions made me yearn to return to East Bay and Market Street before I inevitably reread this remarkable novel.


Written by Megan H on January 24th, 2018

  • Book Rating: 5/5

This book is empowering and the narrators are magnificent! This is a book that I will repeatedly listen to.

Author Details

Author Details

Kidd, Sue Monk

Sue Monk Kidd was born and raised in the tiny town of Sylvester, Georgia, a place that deeply influenced the writing of her first novel The Secret Life of Bees. She discovered her desire to be a writer as a child, listening to her father's imaginative stories.Two books, which she read at the age of fifteen- Thoreau's spiritual memoir, Walden and Kate Chopin's novel, The Awakening- had a deep impact on her and would foreshadow the course she herself would eventually take as a writer: writing spiritual memoir and novels.

Her hope for a career in writing was not without an early detour. In what Sue has called an "inexplicable twist that is partly due to a failure of courage and partly due to the cultural climate of the South in 1966," she chose a more traditional path when it came time to go to college. She majored in nursing and graduated in 1970 from Texas Christian University with a B.S. degree, then worked throughout her twenties as a registered nurse. During this time, she married Sanford (Sandy) Kidd and they had two children, Bob and Ann.

Shortly before Sue turned thirty, the pull to writing returned. Living in South Carolina, where her husband Sandy was teaching at a small liberal arts college, she enrolled in writing classes with the intention of writing fiction, but was soon diverted to non-fiction. She began a career as a freelancer, writing personal experience articles, most of them inspirational and art of living pieces. Sue published several hundred articles, primarily in Guideposts Magazine, but also in numerous other publications, newspapers and journals.

It was during Sue's thirties that she began to experience an intellectual and spiritual flowering. She embarked on a serious study of the classics of Western spirituality, depth psychology and mythology, while also reading voluminous amounts of literary fiction. She became deeply influenced by the work of monk, Thomas Merton and psychiatrist, C.G. Jung, which would impact her writing in the years ahead.

Her first book, God's Joyful Surprise, published by Harper SanFrancisco in 1988, describes the beginning of her spiritual searching. Her second book, When the Heart Waits was published by Harper SanFrancisco in 1990, and revealed a deepening of Sue's voice. Rooted in contemplative spirituality, the memoir recounts a vivid spiritual transformation at mid life. While in her early forties, Sue turned her explorations and study to feminist theology. The result was The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, published in 1996 by Harper SanFrancisco. This bold and highly successfully memoir had a groundbreaking effect within religious circles.

When Sue's desire to write fiction returned, she felt, by her own account, intimidated, but took the leap, enrolling in a graduate writing course at Emory University, and studying at Sewanee, Bread Loaf and other writers' conferences. She began by writing and publishing short stories in small literary journals for which she garnered several awards.

When her first novel, The Secret Life of Bees was published by Viking in 2002, it became a genuine literary phenomenon. A story of coming-of-age, race-relations, the search for love and home, the novel tells the story of fourteen year old Lily, who runs away with her black housekeeper in 1964 in South Carolina and the sanctuary they both find in the home of three beekeeping sisters, who revere a Black Madonna.

The Secret Life of Bees has sold more than 5 million copies, spent over two years on the New York Times bestseller list and been published in 35 countries. It was awarded the 2004 Book Sense Paperback book of the Year, nominated for the Orange Prize in England, and chosen as Good Morning America's Read This! Book Club pick. Taught widely now in college and high school classrooms, The Secret Life of Bees is fast becoming a modern classic. It has been produced on stage in New York by The American Place Theater and been adapted into a movie by Fox Searchlight.

Sue's second novel, The Mermaid Chair, has sold more than 1.7 million copies since its publication in the Spring of 2005. Set on a South Carolina barrier island, it tells the story of 42 year old Jessie Sullivan, a married woman who falls in love with a Benedictine monk, and explores themes of mid life marriage and self-awakening. The Mermaid Chair reached the #1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list and remained on the hardcover and paperback list for nine months. Winner of the 2005 Quill Award for General Fiction, the novel has been translated into 23 languages and was produced as a television movie by Lifetime.

In 2006, Firstlight, a collection of Sue's early writings was released in hardcover by Guideposts Books and in paperback by Penguin in 2007. This compilation of inspirational stories, spiritual essays, and meditations has been translated into several languages and has over 200,000 copies in print.

Sue's new book, Traveling with Pomegranates, co-authored with her daughter Ann, is a mother daughter travel memoir due out in 2009.

Sue serves on the board of advisors for Poets & Writers and for Low Country Initiative for the Literay Arts (LILA). She is Writer in Residence at The Sophia Institute in Charleston.

Today Sue lives beside a salt marsh near Charleston, South Carolina with her husband Sandy and their black lab, Lily.