I have to admit I was a little offput by my Book club suggesting an Oprah 2.0 book. My snarky opinion is that “Oprah books” are “high brow”, tasteful books that are overtly meant for me to be inspired and educated. And frankly I was feeling a little sorry for myself. I didn’t WANT to be inspired or educated. I mean, really, I have to work a LOT and I’m BUSY with all my “first world problems” like too much email, too many meetings and the expenses of our family of 5.
So let’s just say I went into this one a little negative.
I was pleasantly surprised by the writing and pace of this historical fiction story of Sarah Grimke’ and her sister, Angelina, who were part of a slave owning family in Charlston South Carolina.
At the age of 11 Sarah was given a slave appropriately named “Handful” who remained her companion and friend for 35 years. “The Invention of Wings” is a first person narrative that alternates between Sarah and Handful and describes life in the deep South in the early 1800’s.
While the friendship between the two felt forced at times, I appreciated the research the author did to uncover the work of Sarah and her sister Angelina. These ladies of gentility had to break away from their families and ultimately wrote the famous pamphlet “American Slavery As it Is” a full 15 years before Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”
The Grimke’ sisters crusaded both for the emancipation of slaves AND for gender equality at a time when neither idea was popular. And to do this they had to renounce the comforts of their own lavish lifestyle.
I think I knew Oprah meant for me to be inspired by this story. It’s just that I didn’t really WANT to be inspired. Instead, I wanted to complain about the problems in my life which as it turns out are really blessings. As I read this book I got lost in the story and I forgot to be snarky and whiny and instead became humbled and motivated.
Mission accomplished, Oprah! Great piece of historical fiction. And a very fine read for any book club.