Somewhere around the turn of the century, I began my search for a connection to a higher power. It became clear to me in the rooms of AA that connection was crucial if I wanted to leave behind the cycle of over drinking, trying to quit, failing to quit and over drinking again and again and again.
I had given up on religion as a teen. My parents were not churchgoers, but throughout my childhood and teen years, I attended many churches belonging to myriad denominations of the Christian religion with my friends. I lived in a small town where dozens of churches had buses that would pick you up on Sunday, or during the summer for camp programs, trips to the lake, volunteer work, and music programs of all kinds. While I enjoyed the social aspects of all of this, whenever it came to the preaching and Sunday school lessons, all of it made me feel less-than, unworthy, somehow second class. Not one of those churches ever spoke to me enough to make it stick, and I relegated religion to the category of “fine for other people, but not my thing.”
When I found Sue Monk Kidd’s memoir, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, the subtitle read, “A Woman’s Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine.” My heart tripped over it’s feet and flopped around on the floor while I tried to find a seat in the bookstore and catch my breath. ‘Sacred Feminine’ resonated in the cells of my body like the Universe had opened it’s arms, pulled me into an embrace and said, “welcome home.”
My copy of Dance is more highlighted than not highlighted. For me, the words were like bathing in ancient wisdom steeped in ecstasy. I reveled in the author’s journey as she took me on my own. I held my breath as she named the patriarchally-imposed inequality that women suffered in the church, which I had so clearly sensed in my childhood. I cheered when she decided not to swallow it anymore. And I cried when she showed me how to forge a path and follow my own innate knowing about what is, and is not, spiritual and holy.
Her first work of fiction, The Secret Life of Bees, spent two and a half years on the best seller list and was every bit as uplifting, inspiring and hope-filled as Dance of the Dissident Daughter. Monk’s characters rise up to meet challenges and overcome fear to speak their truth. They reach inside themselves to overcome obstacles and live the life they choose to create.
The Invention of Wings is the story of Sarah Grimke, and Hetty, the slave who was gifted to Sarah as a handmaid on her eleventh birthday. “We follow their remarkable journeys over thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.”
As much as I loved Secret Life of Bees, I loved Wings more. It is in my top three favorite fiction books of all time.
Her newest novel, A Book of Longings, “relates an extraordinary story set in the first century about one woman’s struggle to realize the passion and potential inside her, while living in a time, and culture devised to silence her.”
It’s inspiring, as are all of her tales. The characters are powerfully written, and my heart was beating in the heroine’s chest. I was enraged for her, enraptured, thrilled and terrified. The story transports the reader and gives her wings. It was a pure delight.
If you have not read Sue Monk Kidd’s work, I invite you to listen to the interview and explore her library of works. Then if they resonate for you like they do for so many, you can add them to your list of resources that uplift and inspire!