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If you’re looking for a remarkable audiobook that is both thought-provoking and engaging, then “The Invention of Wings” by Sue Monk Kidd is an excellent choice. In this audiobook review, we take a closer look at this powerful historical fiction story narrated through the perspectives of two unforgettable women.

Sue Monk Kidd is a renowned author who has captured the hearts of many with her previous works, and “The Invention of Wings” is no exception. Set in the early 1800s in Charleston, South Carolina, the story follows the lives of Sarah Grimké, an aspiring lawyer and abolitionist, and Hetty “Handful” Grimké, a young slave girl owned by Sarah’s family.

The audiobook adaptation of “The Invention of Wings” is a masterful production that brings the story to life. In this review, we will examine the historical context, main characters, themes, writing style, and audiobook narration, as well as provide critical analysis, comparisons, and recommendations.

Join us as we explore this inspiring and transformative novel from one of the most celebrated authors of our time.

About the Author

Sue Monk Kidd is an American author known for her works of fiction, including “The Secret Life of Bees” and “The Invention of Wings.” Born in Sylvester, Georgia, in 1948, Kidd began her career as a nurse before turning to writing. Her debut novel, “The Secret Life of Bees,” was a bestseller and won numerous awards, including the 2004 Book Sense Book of the Year.

Kidd’s writing style is known for its lyricism and ability to tackle complex themes in an accessible way. Her works often center on strong female characters and explore themes of motherhood, spirituality, and social justice. Her latest novel, “The Book of Longings,” explores the life of a fictional wife of Jesus Christ and has received critical acclaim.


The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd is historical fiction that tells the story of Sarah Grimké, a privileged white girl in early 1800s Charleston, South Carolina, and Handful, the slave given to her as a birthday present. Spanning over 30 years, the plot centers on the unlikely bond that forms between Sarah and Handful as they both strive for freedom and equality in a world where slavery is deeply ingrained and women are second-class citizens.

The story is set against the backdrop of the abolitionist movement and features historic figures such as Sarah and Angelina Grimké, Lucretia Mott, Frederick Douglass, and Denmark Vesey. Through their experiences, the novel explores themes of oppression, courage, and the power of friendship in the face of adversity.

Throughout the story, the reader follows the journeys of both main characters, as they navigate the complexities of their own lives and the society they live in. Sarah struggles against the expectations of her family and society, which deny her the opportunity to pursue her passions and beliefs, while Handful faces the harsh realities of slavery and the cruel treatment at the hands of her masters. Despite the vast social and economic differences between them, the two women develop a deep bond that transcends their circumstances, as they inspire each other to fight for change.

Overall, The Invention of Wings is a gripping tale of hope, loss, and perseverance that offers a poignant look into the struggles of the past, while also reflecting on contemporary social issues.

Historical Context

The Invention of Wings is set during the early nineteenth century, a period marked by the persistence of slavery in the United States and the beginnings of the abolitionist movement. The novel portrays the lives of two women, Sarah Grimké and Hetty “Handful” Grimké, who come from vastly different backgrounds, but are united by their shared desire for freedom and social justice.

Slavery was a fundamental institution in the United States during the time period of the novel. Slave labor was a crucial component of the economy of the southern states, where cotton plantations were prevalent. Slaves were treated as property, with no rights or freedoms, and were often subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment. The abolitionist movement, which sought to bring an end to the practice of slavery, emerged as a response to these injustices. Abolitionists believed that slavery was morally wrong and worked tirelessly to promote the cause of freedom and equality for all people.

The Invention of Wings is a powerful depiction of the struggles of the abolitionist movement and the impact of slavery on the lives of individuals and society. Sue Monk Kidd’s novel serves as a reminder of the historical importance of this period and the ongoing fight for justice and equality in our society today.

Main Characters

“The Invention of Wings” revolves around the lives of Sarah Grimké and Hetty “Handful” Grimké. Sarah is the daughter of a wealthy and influential family in Charleston who becomes an abolitionist and women’s rights activist. Hetty, a young slave girl, is given to Sarah on her eleventh birthday as a present. Despite growing up in vastly different circumstances, the two develop a deep bond that transcends their social classes and societal norms.

Sarah is portrayed as a strong-willed and determined character who refuses to conform to the expectations imposed on women in the 19th century. As she becomes more involved in the abolitionist movement, she faces opposition and ostracism from her family and community.

Hetty, on the other hand, is a resilient and brave character who endures the brutalities of slavery and fights for her own freedom. Her relationship with Sarah exposes her to a world beyond slavery, and she learns to question her own fate and the injustices of the society she lives in.

Their complex and evolving relationship is central to the story, as both Sarah and Hetty learn from each other, challenge each other’s beliefs, and ultimately support each other in their pursuit of freedom and equality.

The image depicts the two main characters, Sarah Grimké and Hetty “Handful” Grimké, whose relationship is the cornerstone of the novel.

Themes and Symbolism

“The Invention of Wings” by Sue Monk Kidd explores several themes throughout the story, including social justice, identity, and empowerment. Sarah Grimké, one of the main characters, struggles with the limitations imposed on her because of her gender and social status, highlighting the theme of women’s rights and the fight for equality.

The novel also utilizes symbolism to further emphasize these themes. The bird imagery throughout the story represents freedom and the desire to break free from the constraints of society. The quilt that Handful and her mother create represents the bonds that tie families and communities together, and also serves as a metaphor for the interconnectedness of people in the fight against oppression.

“The bird became my wings, and freedom was the wind that carried me away.”

social justice

The symbolism and themes present in “The Invention of Wings” create a thought-provoking reading experience that encourages reflection on social justice and the power of individual agency. The audiobook adaptation effectively conveys these themes and adds a new dimension to the story with the use of voice actors and music, making it a worthwhile listen for fans of historical fiction and social justice narratives.

Writing Style

Sue Monk Kidd’s writing style in “The Invention of Wings” is a skillful blend of historical detail and powerful storytelling. Throughout the novel, Kidd utilizes a variety of narrative techniques to create an immersive reading experience. One such technique is her use of dual perspectives, featuring alternating chapters between Sarah Grimké and Hetty “Handful” Grimké. This structure not only showcases the distinct voices and perspectives of the two characters but also provides insightful commentary on the social and political issues of the time.

Kidd’s prose is characterized by its eloquence and depth, with vivid descriptions and poignant metaphors bringing the novel’s settings and characters to life. Her use of symbolism is also notable, with recurring motifs such as wings and the Grimké family’s carriage serving as powerful representations of freedom and societal constraints.

Overall, Kidd’s writing style is a testament to her ability to craft a compelling and emotionally resonant story, while also highlighting the importance of social justice and equality.

Audiobook Narration

One of the key components of any audiobook is the quality of the narration and the performance given by the voice actors. The audiobook adaptation of “The Invention of Wings” does not disappoint in this regard. The narration is expertly done, with each character given a unique voice and personality that adds depth and nuance to the story.

The voice actors capture the emotional depth of the characters, conveying the pain and suffering of slavery and discrimination but also the hope and resilience of the human spirit. Their performances add another layer of meaning to an already powerful story, making for an unforgettable listening experience.

Overall, the audiobook production of “The Invention of Wings” is a must-listen for fans of historical fiction and audiobook narration.

Pacing and Tension

As with any good story, the pacing and tension in “The Invention of Wings” are critical to maintaining a listener’s interest and engagement. Sue Monk Kidd masterfully builds suspense and creates a sense of urgency throughout the novel, which is maintained in the audiobook adaptation.

The story’s pacing is deliberate, offering just enough action and reflection to keep listeners invested in the characters’ journeys without feeling rushed or overwhelmed. The use of alternating perspectives between Sarah and Handful adds to the tension in the narrative, as readers are kept on edge by the women’s uncertain futures and the constraints placed upon them by society.

The audiobook’s narration further enhances the pacing and tension in the story. The voice actors’ performances are nuanced, capturing the emotional depth of the characters and making their struggles feel all the more immediate and impactful. The result is a gripping listening experience that keeps listeners hooked until the very end.

Emotional Impact

One of the standout features of “The Invention of Wings” is its emotional depth. The story is deeply moving and explores complex themes with nuance and sensitivity. Readers and listeners alike have been deeply impacted by the powerful characters, thought-provoking themes, and poignant storytelling.

The profound impact of the novel is evidenced by the many reader responses that have poured in since its publication. Countless individuals have shared how the story has resonated with them on a personal level, touching their hearts and inspiring them to reflect on their own lives and experiences.

“This book truly touched my heart. I was moved by the strength and resilience of the characters and the power of their voices. It has opened my eyes to the struggles and injustices of the past and reminds me of the importance of fighting for a better future. Thank you, Sue Monk Kidd, for this beautiful story.” – Sarah L.

The emotional impact of “The Invention of Wings” is amplified in the audiobook adaptation, which features skilled voice actors who bring the characters to life with nuance and authenticity. Listening to the audiobook is a powerful experience that immerses the listener in the story and evokes a heightened sense of empathy and emotional resonance.

Reception and Awards

Since its publication in 2014, “The Invention of Wings” has garnered significant critical acclaim and numerous accolades. The novel was a #1 New York Times bestseller and a selection of Oprah’s Book Club. It was also named a Finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction in 2014.

According to Publishers Weekly, “Kidd’s sweeping novel is an important tribute to inspirational women of the past, and a lesson in facing adversity.” The Wall Street Journal called it a “powerful, sweeping novel, imbued with a handful of themes… that converge with electrifying force.”


Awards and Nominations

Award Category Outcome
National Book Award Fiction Finalist
Goodreads Choice Award Historical Fiction Nominee
NAACP Image Award Outstanding Literary Work Nominee

The novel’s blend of historical context, strong female characters, and powerful themes of social justice and empowerment have resonated with both readers and critics alike, solidifying its place as a modern classic.

Cultural and Historical Significance

The Invention of Wings has had a significant cultural impact, sparking conversations about feminism, race, and social justice. The novel sheds light on the historical significance of the abolitionist movement and its impact on women’s rights during the 19th century.

Sue Monk Kidd’s portrayal of slavery and the experiences of Sarah Grimké and Hetty “Handful” Grimké highlights the importance of intersectionality and how issues of gender and race are intertwined. The story not only provides historical context but also challenges readers to reflect on their own beliefs and biases.

The Invention of Wings is a powerful and thought-provoking novel that continues to resonate with readers today.

Comparison to the Book

While the audiobook adaptation of “The Invention of Wings” by Sue Monk Kidd offers a unique listening experience, there are some notable differences compared to the print edition.

One advantage of the audiobook is the dynamic narration, which adds depth and emotion to the characters and story. Additionally, listening to the book can provide a more immersive experience, allowing the listener to fully focus on the story without distractions.

However, the print edition allows for more control over the reading experience, as readers can easily reread sections or take notes without losing their place in the story. Additionally, some readers may prefer the tactile experience of reading a physical book.

Overall, whether to choose the audiobook or print edition may depend on personal preference and reading habits.


Who should listen to “The Invention of Wings” audiobook? Recommended for readers who enjoy historical fiction, stories of social justice, and strong female characters. It is also suitable for those who prefer audio productions with emotional depth and compelling narration.

For fans of Sue Monk Kidd’s writing style, the audiobook offers a unique listening experience that brings the story to life with vivid imagery and powerful performances from the voice actors.

Additionally, those interested in the history of slavery and abolitionist movements will find value in the historical context and themes present in the novel.

Impact and Legacy

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd has made a significant impact on literature and has left a lasting influence on subsequent works. The novel’s themes of social justice, identity, and empowerment have resonated with readers and sparked important conversations about race and gender equality.

Since its publication in 2014, The Invention of Wings has received critical acclaim and numerous awards, including the Book of the Year Award from the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance and the 2015 Ohioana Book Award for Fiction.

The novel’s legacy can also be seen in the continued discussion of the abolitionist movement and women’s rights, both in literature and in academic circles. In addition, the audiobook adaptation has made the story accessible to a broad audience, introducing the novel to new readers and listeners.

Overall, The Invention of Wings has left a powerful impact on both literature and society, cementing its place as a modern classic and a testament to the enduring power of storytelling.


“The Invention of Wings” by Sue Monk Kidd is a powerful historical novel that explores themes of slavery, abolition, and social justice. The audiobook adaptation of the novel offers a captivating listening experience, with excellent narration that maintains the tension and suspense of the story.

Sue Monk Kidd’s writing style is compelling and thought-provoking, with in-depth characterization and rich symbolism that adds depth to the story. The audiobook adaptation is an excellent way to experience the novel, with talented voice actors bringing the characters to life.

Overall, “The Invention of Wings” is a significant work of historical fiction that has received critical acclaim and numerous awards. Its cultural and historical significance cannot be understated, and it remains relevant today for its contributions to discussions of slavery, women’s rights, and social justice.

We highly recommend the audiobook adaptation of “The Invention of Wings” to anyone interested in historical fiction, social justice, or powerful storytelling. It is a moving and thought-provoking work that will leave a lasting impact on its listeners.

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