The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd was first published by Penguin Viking in January 2014. It was immediately included as a featured selection for the Oprah Book Club, and was also greeted with additional critical and popular acclaim. If you enjoyed The Invention of Wings, by this bestselling novelist, you’ll likely enjoy these other literary masterworks.

  1. The AwakeningKate Chopin draws us into Edna Pontellier’s journey of discovery with this, her most controversial novel. Life Kidd’s Sarah Grimke, Edna gradually comes to an awareness of herself: her needs, desires, and the realities of her situation in the repressive world. Although both women immerse themselves in the sea, the final meaning and intent behind each act is very different for Edna and Sarah.
  2. Jane EyreThis first-hand narrative centers around an intelligent and isolated young woman. As an orphan, she’s placed in the care of relatives (an aunt and cousins, who terrorized her) at Gateshead, and then she’s sent to Lowood (where again, she’s subjected to abusive conditions). Her position as governess offers her a way to explore new freedoms (and impossible passions). Like Sarah, she was offered an opportunity to become a dutiful wife on the mission field, but she chose to return (much as Sarah chose to pursue a life outside of “accepted” norms for women).
  3. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings: Maya Angelou crafted this autobiographical work of literature. James Baldwin called the book “a Biblical study in the midst of death.” Both Maya Angelou and Sue Monk Kidd tackle controversial topics in their books, but not without beauty and the driving imagination that carries us all through to the final page.
  4. Beloved: If you’ve never read Beloved, what are you waiting for? The simple beauty of the book–interspersed with those sink-to-your-knees passages–make the book both controversial and compelling. The novel is also a perfect counterpoint to the work of Sue Monk Kidd. It’s a mix of controversy and tragic interplay, with poetic genius.
  5. The Secret Life of Bees: Yes, it’s another novel by Sue Monk Kidd, but each novel has its own voice (it will speak to you in a different way). Of course, if you love The Invention of Wings, her bestselling novel may be exactly the right book for your next literary exploration. Here too, Sue Monk Kidd gives us a coming-of-age story about loss and betrayal.
  6. Afternoons With Emily: Just imagine the experience, if you were able to meet (and spend time with) a literary heroine (writer), like Emily Dickinson. In this work of historical fiction, Rose MacMurray drew from letters, poems and other historical records–to put us into the shoes of Emily Dickinson’s friend.
  7. The Scarlet Letter: Nathaniel Hawthorne explores the many controversies of an illicit love affair and an individual woman (Hester Prynne) in Puritanical society. The scarlet letter (that she wears), as well as her child (Pearl)–both are symbols and forces of nature. That red letter is “her passport into regions where other women dared not tread.” Like Eve, Hester was banished from her home. She stands apart, just like Hetty (Handful) and Sarah.
  8. My Antonia: Willa Cather wrote about harsh life on the frontier, but also about the strong women who faced such hardships and privation, through starvation, impossible conditions, and all the other realities of life (and death). The character–both men and women–inspirational and unforgettable.
  9. The Yellow Wallpaper: Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote about her personal experiences–she’s trapped in the upper room. She wasn’t allowed to read or write, and she’s driven to a state of near-madness and desperation in repressive 19-th century society. Gilman was an important writer at her time, and she took experiences like this–to dramatically depict the experiences of women.
  10. A Room of One’s Own: Virginia Woolf delivered one of her most popular works. It’s an exploration of women in history and literature, with the ever-popular depiction of Shakespeare’s sister (at the forefront of our memories). She wrote: “Women have served all these centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size.” Woolf’s essay is generally considered an important text in feminist literature, but it’s also an intriguing work to study in relation to books like The Invention of Wings.


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