Book Review: The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

From the Back Cover:

“Set in South Carolina in 1964, The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. When Lily’s fierce hearted black “stand-in mother” Rosaleen insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily decides to spring them both free. They escape to Tiburon, South Carolina – a town that holds the secret to her mother’s past. Taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters, Lily is introduced to their mesmerizing world of bees and honey, and the Black Madonna. This is a remarkable novel about divine female power, a story that women will share and pass on to their daughters for years to come.”

Thoughts:

Our Book Club selection for this month is The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd and since the group had already read The Secret Life of Bees, I figured I needed to catch up. I think each author’s book informs the reading experience of their other books. So I did double duty for this month.

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First of all, the edition I found at the library was put out by Penguin Drop Caps and while I’ve heard about all the cute and fun options one can find if one has the money to do so, I didn’t expect to love the smaller book and cute design as I did! It’s a book, right?! You read it. But there is something to be said for beauty – especially in book covers. That is not to say that I am going to begin replacing my book collections with cute matchy-matchy spines. I will, however, enjoy every option available to me at my amazing library!

As I began to read, I found Lily and her thoughts thoroughly raw. Desperation for her mother caused such tumult inside her layered with the boiling adolescent angst already there, it was too fascinating to put down.

Sue Monk Kidd takes a painful time in our nation’s history, adds an unusual girl with a drive for the dramatic, a set of sisters with their own peculiarities and stirs it all together with a smidge of legend.

The fun facts about bees taken from various books featured at the start of each chapter actually do their job and inform the story well.  Many other books, I found similar quotes to be a distraction from the story.

There is a very satisfying conclusion, though not every end is tied up neatly, and you will likely end up with a book hangover.

Themes:

Mothers and daughters, the idea of a divine feminine power, a healthy community of women, racism, truly coming to terms with our own issues

Reservations:

While I loved the story and all the quirky characters, I thoroughly disagreed with the syncretism portrayed in the worship of Black Mary. Prayer, worship and feasts in her honor go directly against what she herself would say if she were standing here today. She would never take any worship for herself but direct it all to her Lord.

That being said, I can understand why Black Mary is part of the story. It is intriguing to believe a woman would be able to have divine authority in such a time and place where women were not valued, especially black women.

If you can peel this away and get down to the idea that God, not Mary, is always there for us no matter where we are and will be our strength for whatever we have to do, then you will do fine.

There are some moments with bad language and some scenes bathing in a river.

Recommendations:

This is a book encapsulating the struggle of a girl to carry on without a mother during the part of her growing where she desperately needs one. It will yank your heart to shreds and make you laugh right out loud.

I hope you enjoy it.

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Photo by Jonathan Farber on Unsplash

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