Friday, February 22, 2008

The Secret Life of Bees

I picked up The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd the other day on my way home. I'd finished my other book at lunch time, and this was on the $2.00 rack outside of an odd reading room on 43rd Street. Even though I tend to disregard certain best sellers - in particular, those that strike me as "too girly" - as potentially trite or uninteresting, the price was right so I picked it up.

I was very pleasantly surprised, and thoroughly enjoyed this book! It's set in South Carolina in 1964, amid the racial unrest following Johnson's signing of the Civil Rights Act. Fourteen-year-old Lily Owens runs away from her emotionally (and sometimes physically) abusive father, along with her black nanny Rosaleen. Her destination is a tiny town she knows only from the writing on the back of a picture of a Black Madonna, which she found among her late mother's belongings. Lily and Rosaleen end up in a shockingly pink house belonging to three African American beekeeping sisters, and the story that unfolds is one of women's strength and love.

This book isn't going to find itself listed the Great American Novels, but it is a very enjoyable read. It's a lovely story, and well written. I enjoyed the personal perspective of a volatile time in American history, as the backdrop for the experiences of a complex young girl with a sharp mind and a lot of emotional baggage. The Boatwright women (August, May and June, also referred to as the Calendar Sisters) are wonderful portraits of Southern black women, and the minor characters (in particular Zach, Clayton Forrest and the Daughters of Mary) were brought to life by Kidd's vivid details.

I'd definitely recommend this to anyone looking for a quick and interesting read. And if you take me up on it, let me know - I'd love to chat about it over a glass of wine sometime.


Heat Wave in MN said...

Hi Ange! I loved that book!! But, I really loved the characters and became very attached to them right off the bat. Do you know other authors like her - I just loved that book!!

Alison said...

Hi Angie! I also read "Bees" for a book club and really enjoyed it. I definitely couldn't put it down! I'm currently reading "The Memory Keeper's Daughter" and really enjoying it.