Thursday, August 23, 2007
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Now I know why this book is so popular. It's an intriguing coming-of-age story that becomes more intense and urgent, as it goes along. The characters are real, the time period is very recognizable, and the setting--a beekeeper's home and business--is very appealing. The author uses facts about the lives of bees as a thoughtful analogy that helps to unite different parts of this story.
It is the summer of 1964, when Lily turns fourteen and becomes aware that she feels trapped and miserable at home alone with her angry, mean-spirited father, who she calls T. Ray. ("He's just not the 'Daddy' type.") After her nanny Rosaleen is unjustly jailed and T. Ray is completely unsympathetic, Lily takes the desperate act of helping Rosaleen to escape. They both run away to a not-very-distant town, where they are taken in by August, June, and May Boatwright, three sisters living in a very pink house with a thriving honey business. How, exactly, Lily seeks these women out is another story within this tale.
As Lily learns the beekeeping trade, she is also wrestling with heavy emotional issues about her mother and the circumstances of her death, her feelings toward her father, and then the realization that she wants, very much, to stay where she is. In this new life of hers, she has Rosaleen, a wise grandmother figure in August, and a first romantic interest in Zach. But, how will she do this? Lily knows her father is looking for her, and when he finds her, he will be very scary, and Rosaleen definitely cannot go back! The racial tension of the era is a constant, threatening hum throughout the story; Rosaleen has been beaten up in jail, and all the white people in this South Carolina town want to know why, exactly, Lily is living with these black women.
In this story, a fourteen-year-old girl awakes one day hearing the words, Lily Melissa Owens, your jar is open. And she flies away to make a better life for herself, one in which she will be allowed to thrive. This is also the year of The Civil Rights Act, so important changes are happening all around her, too.
Need an uplifting, fast read?