Book Review

Sue Monk Kidd
The Secret Life of Bees
DB55533

Living on a peach farm in South Carolina with her harsh, unyielding father, Lily Owens has shaped her entire life around one devastating, blurred memory – the afternoon her mother was killed, when Lily was four. Since then, her only real companion has been the fierce-hearted, and sometimes just fierce, black woman Rosaleen, who acts as her “stand-in mother.”

When Rosaleen insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily knows it’s time to spring them both free. They take off in the only direction Lily can think of, toward a town called Tiburon, South Carolina – a name she found on the back of a picture amid the few possessions left by her mother.

There they are taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters named May, June, and August. Lily thinks of them as the calendar sisters and enters their mesmerizing secret world of bees and honey, and of the Black Madonna who presides over this household of strong, wise women. Maternal loss and betrayal, guilt and forgiveness entwine in a story that leads Lily to the single thing her heart longs for most.

I discovered that the movie was as good as the book. It was a wonderful movie that led me to read the book, and I am glad that I did both.

This book uses the motif of the bees’ lives to make parallels with Lily’s life. Once you are about three chapters in, each of the quotes at the beginning of the chapter really make you look at them in-depth and analyze how they relate to the chapter. It gave incentive to read more closely than I usually would with fiction.

I must say that I adored this book. The writing flowed with emotion and description in all the right places. It was simple enough for everyone to enjoy without being “simple” writing.

The historic elements made the story sit in time, and allowed the reader to go back in time to that era to experience how some people crossed the black/white color line while others used it as a god given right. Because it comes from the point-of-view of a young girl, the scenes are appropriate for all ages. It can be read with a sentimental heart without dropping off into a bottomless sugar pit.

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