'The Invention of Wings' by Sue Monk Kidd - Discussion Questions


The Invention of Wings is Sue Monk Kidd's third novel. Her first, The Secret Life of Bees, was a book club favorite that gave groups a chance to discuss race issues in the South in the 1960s. In The Invention of Wings, Kidd returns to issues of race and a Southern setting, this time tackling enslavement in the early 19th century. Kidd's novel is fiction, but historical fiction where one of the main characters is based on a true historical figure -- Sarah Grimke. These questions seek to get at the heart of the novel and help book clubs discuss the many facets of The Invention of Wings.

Spoiler Warning: These questions contain details from throughout the novel, including the end. Finish the book before reading on.

  1. The novel is presented as a story about two characters, Sarah and Handful. Do you think their relationship with each other is central to how they developed? Or was the chance to read two perspectives more important than the actual relationship?
  2. This is also a novel about family relationships and history, particularly as seen through the women in the story. Discuss Sarah's relationship with her mother and sisters and Handful's with her mother and sister. In what ways did these other women define who Sarah and Handful became?
  3. Charlotte's story quilt is her greatest treasure. Why do you think that is? How does the ability to tell one's own story shape one's identity?
  4. Sarah's family's story relies on enslavement. Why was it necessary for Sarah to leave all the things dear to her mother and family -- Charleston society, beautiful ornamentation, reputation and even place -- in order to live with her personal convictions? What was the hardest for her to break with?
  5. Religion is important throughout the novel, and Kidd gives readers the chance to see many sides of the early 19th-century church: the White high church in the South, which defended enslavement; the Black church in the South with its liberation theology; and the Quaker church, with its progressive ideas about women and enslaved people along with its denial of beautiful clothes and celebrations. Enslavement is one of the keys to understanding the complex history of the church in America. Discuss how the novel brings that to light? What did the book make you think about the role of the church?
  6. Were you surprised to learn that even among North American 19th-century Black activists the idea of racial equality was radical?
  7. Were you surprised by the reactions in the North to the Grimke sisters' speaking tour? Were you aware of how strongly women were limited?
  8. Even the Grimkes' allies suggested they hold back on their feminist views because they thought it would hurt the cause of North American 19th-century anti-enslavement activism. Indeed, it did split the movement. Do you think this compromise was justified? Did you think the sisters were justified in not making it?
  9. Were you surprised to hear about any of the punishments that were common for enslaved people, such as the Work House or the one legged punishment? Were any other parts of the history of enslavement new to you, such as the information about Denmark Vessey and the planned revolt? Did this novel give you any new perspectives on enslavement?
  10. If you have read Sue Monk Kidd's previous novels, how did this one compare? Rate The Invention of Wings on a scale of 1 to 5.
  • The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd was published in January 2014
  • It was chosen for Oprah's Book Club before publication
  • Publisher: Viking Adult
  • 384 pages
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Your Citation
Miller, Erin Collazo. "'The Invention of Wings' by Sue Monk Kidd - Discussion Questions." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, thoughtco.com/the-invention-of-wings-discussion-questions-362052. Miller, Erin Collazo. (2021, February 16). 'The Invention of Wings' by Sue Monk Kidd - Discussion Questions. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/the-invention-of-wings-discussion-questions-362052 Miller, Erin Collazo. "'The Invention of Wings' by Sue Monk Kidd - Discussion Questions." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/the-invention-of-wings-discussion-questions-362052 (accessed March 28, 2023).