Shelf Control #136: Home in the Morning by Mary Glickman

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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Title: Home in the Morning
Author: Mary Glickman
Published: 2010
Length: 233 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

A powerful debut from a new literary talent, this novel tells the story of a Jewish family confronting the tumult of the 1960s—and the secrets that bind its members together

Jackson Sassaport is a man who often finds himself in the middle. Whether torn between Stella, his beloved and opinionated Yankee wife, and Katherine Marie, the African American girl who first stole his teenage heart; or between standing up for his beliefs and acquiescing to his prominent Jewish family’s imperative to not stand out in the segregated South, Jackson learns to balance the secrets and deceptions of those around him. But one fateful night in 1960 will make the man in the middle reconsider his obligations to propriety and family, and will start a chain of events that will change his life and the lives of those around him forever.

Home in the Morning follows Jackson’s journey from his childhood as a coddled son of the Old South to his struggle as a young man eager to find his place in the civil rights movement while protecting his family. Flashing back between Jackson’s adult life as a successful lawyer and his youth, Mary Glickman’s riveting novel traces the ways that race and prejudice, family and love intertwine to shape our lives. This ebook features rare photos and never-before-seen documents from the author’s personal collection.

How and when I got it:

I don’t really remember buying this book… but I assume I picked it up at one of the library book sales over the past several years.

Why I want to read it:

The synopsis makes this book sound fascinating — civil rights, a love story, the 1960s, Jewish life in the South. I’m definitely drawn to the description… and I’m glad this book just resurfaced for me during a shelf tidying adventure, because I plan to bump it up the TBR list!

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

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Audiobook Review: The Invention of Wings

Invention of Wings 2My book group chose The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd for our August discussion book, and I was in absolute despair over how impossible it would be to find enough time to read it, when it dawned on me that I needed a new audiobook to listen to and this might be the perfect choice.

Guess what? I was right.

Almost immediately, I became totally wrapped up in this beautiful and powerful story. On top of the quality of the writing and plot, the audiobook narration seemed to suit the characters perfectly, and I was absolutely hooked.

What’s it all about? In short, The Invention of Wings is the story of two women whose lives are joined from childhood onward. One is Sarah Grimke, the daughter of a wealthy planter-class, slave-owning family in Charleston, South Carolina in the early 1800s. The other is Hetty, known as Handful, the slave girl given to Sarah as a present for her 11th birthday.

Sarah is horrified by the idea of owning a person, and her first action is to steal into her father’s library and copy a document of manumission from his law books, setting Handful free. Of course, Sarah’s parents rip up the document on the spot, but from this moment forward, Sarah and Handful’s lives are tied together.

Sarah Grimke is a historical figure, who became a famous (and infamous) public speaker and writer as an adult, as she and her sister Angelina became outspoken, ardent abolitionists and advocates for women’s rights. Handful, though, is a fictional invention, although her life and experiences could easily have been real in the American South.

In alternating voices and chapters, Sarah and Handful narrate their lives. Each presents the world around herself as she experiences it. Sarah is a prisoner of her family’s expectations and society’s beliefs and prejudices, trapped by her gender and by societal norms into a life that torments her. Handful, of course, is literally a prisoner, enslaved for life and forced to experience and witness one degradation after another, despite her mother Charlotte’s best efforts to shield her and give her strength.

The audiobook has two narrators, Jenna Lamia and Adepero Oduye, who alternately voice Sarah and Handful. It’s hard to explain how wonderful this is. Sarah speaks as a young girl at the beginning, and her voice strengthens and matures as she grows into womanhood. Sarah has a speech impediment, which we hear whenever Sarah talks, but not during the narration itself, which is as fluent as her thoughts. The narrator for the Sarah chapters also marvelously captures the upper-class Southern drawl of Sarah’s parents and siblings. Meanwhile, Handful’s chapters are told through Handful’s own speech patterns, with a deep and sorrowful musicality that is really lovely and heartbreaking to listen to.

The story itself is absolutely engrossing. The author does not shy away from the brutality of slavery, and we see the daily degradations as well as the more egregious acts of violence and cruelty. Likewise, we witness the painful journey of a girl breaking free and finding her own voice in a world where speaking out can cost you everything.

The two stories contrast nicely with each other, with themes of family and a search for freedom running through both. I didn’t always buy the idea of the parallels between the two characters’ stories. Handful says to Sarah at one point:

My body might be a slave, but not my mind. For you, it’s the other way round.

While it’s an interesting concept, there isn’t really an equivalency. Sarah may be bound by society’s strictures, but she’s still free and does not have to worry about staying alive and physically whole on a daily basis. Still, it’s worth thinking about the ways in which each woman has her life defined by forces outside her own control, and by the many small steps and defiant acts each takes to carve out her own place in a world that doesn’t value her or even deem her worthy of notice.

Both halves of the story are quite interesting, although Handful’s chapters have a much more urgent and visceral feel to them, and these are the parts of the story that affected me most deeply. Not to say that Sarah’s story isn’t compelling as well: She’s a quiet but strong presence throughout the book, with a deep moral core that propels her forward and has her constantly seeking her purpose in life.

The book ends with an afterward by the author in which she explains the origins of the novel and her research, and gives an overview of the real Sarah Grimke’s life. It’s fascinating to learn more about this historical figure, and to get a glimpse inside the novelist’s writing process, learning which parts of the story are based on real events and which are woven together from imagination and research into 19th century life.

I strongly recommend The Invention of Wings. This feels like the kind of book I’ll be pushing all of my friends and family members to read. The story itself is engrossing, but it’s the characters — deep, well-developed, and sensitively portrayed — who are the heart and soul of this important book.

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The details:

Title: The Invention of Wings
Author: Sue Monk Kidd
Publisher: Viking
Publication date: January 7, 2014
Audiobook length: 13 hours, 46 minutes
Printed book length: 384 pages
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Purchased (Audible download)