I am going to keep this brief because I would really like to finish this book before I go back to work tomorrow morning. And based on my mental calculations, I can finish the book, or write a real post, but not both. I’m 80% of the way through this book, and I’m reading it on a Kindle. My boss’s Kindle. (Not my own, because my mom has appropriated my Kindle for reading and Sudoku-playing. Note to self, the next time you buy a Kindle, don’t buy a Kindle Fire and then let your mom take it to Europe.) My boss was recently seduced by the e-Reader movement, and bought a basic Kindle for purposes of using while traveling. She bought a couple of books on it that she would normally have lent me had she bought them in paperback. So what did she do? She brought her Kindle to work and said, “Just get it back to me before I go out of town again.” This is why she’s the best boss ever. So I find myself reading a book exclusively on an e-Reader for the first time ever. It’s not terrible. I actually find the e-Ink display much less distracting and more book-like than I thought I would. It’s not the same as reading an actual book, but it’s more like it than reading on the Kindle Fire.
The Invention of Wings is the first Sue Monk Kidd book I have read. Yes, that’s right. I’ve never read The Secret Life of Bees. That came out during my “I don’t read anything popular” phase of reading. I have since bought it, of course, I think when Borders was closing down. It’s also my first Oprah book in quite a while, and it’s kind of what I was expecting from an Oprah book, for better or worse. That, of course, means strong female characters surviving/overcoming oppression of some sort. Some are poor, and some are Southern. There is a historical setting (Oprah seems to prefer historical fiction these days). And I like it, as I like most Oprah books I have read, in spite of my better instincts.
The Invention of Wings takes place in the early nineteenth century, primarily in Charleston, South Carolina, and also in Philadelphia. The two narrators are Sarah Grimké, a historical figure, and her fictional slave, Hetty “Handful” Grimké. The novel begins on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given Handful as a birthday gift from her parents. Sarah grows up to be an abolitionist and suffragist, and is not thrilled with her birthday gift. Handful grows up to be, well, a slave, but one who assists in planning the thwarted slave revolt of 1822 with the historical figure Denmark Vessey, and a very talented seamstress and quilter. Quilts figure prominently in the imagery of the novel, which is why I mention them. Handful and her mother Charlotte are very close and I found the juxtaposition of their relationship with Sarah’s much colder relationship with her mother Mary to be at the heart of the novel. I never get tired of reading about mother-daughter relationships, and I don’t think I’ve gotten to do that recently, so this was nice. Well, I guess Life After Life had a bit to say about mother-daughter relationships but Ursula’s relationship with her mother was not quite as central.
I’ll have more to say about this book on Tuesday. But for now, here is an interesting tidbit about the new Kindle Paperwhite: it will guesstimate for you how much longer it will take you to read a chapter of whatever book you’re reading based on your prior reading habits. Isn’t that wonderfully creepy? There is something that’s appealing about concealing the number of books I own on a teeny tiny e-reader, it’s just too bad that I already own so damn many hard copies. Well, not really too bad. I just wish it were possible to put my books onto an e-reader, like you can upload CDs onto an iPod. Someday, maybe.