Wednesday, March 13, 2013

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

There are so many books I pick up when they are bestsellers--and then they sit on my shelf for years. By the time I get around to reading the book, nobody even remembers it. I did this with The Secret Life of Bees. I feel like the dust has settled and there's no longer a buzz (PUN!) about it. Do you remember hearing about it?

Goodreads Summary:

Fans of The Help will love Sue Monk Kidd’s Southern coming of age tale.The Secret Life of Bees was a New York Times bestseller for more than 125 weeks, a Good Morning America “Read This” Book Club pick and was made into an award-winning film starring Dakota Fanning, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson and Alicia Keys. Set in South Carolina in 1964, The Secret Life of Bees will appeal to fans of Kathryn Stockett’s The Helpand Beth Hoffman’s Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, and 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 town's most vicious racists, Lily decides they should both escape to Tiburon, South Carolina—a town that holds the secret to her mother's past. There they are taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters who introduce Lily to a mesmerizing world of bees, honey, and the Black Madonna who presides over their household. This is a remarkable story about divine female power and the transforming power of love—a story that women will share and pass on to their daughters for years to come.

My Review:
The premise of this novel is extremely moving. This novel takes place in the 1960s in South Carolina, where Lily, a white teen, runs away with her black housekeeper, Rosaleen. They run away to an unfamiliar city and eventually live with a trio of black sisters, who welcome the strangers with open arms, in spite of racial tension.

This novel could have been really stellar, much like The Help. In fact, it is frequently compared to The Help. The problem is that The Secret Life of Bees is missing the element of empathy. Even though Lily had several horrible situations happening to her to lead up to the events in the novel, I didn't care for her attitude. I also did not feel as though she learned or grew significantly throughout the novel. She still seemed like a young, immature teenager not ready to face how harsh reality was. I guess I was looking for a heroine who would see harsh reality and move to change it, not just accept it, like Lily did.

In spite of this criticism, I definitely recommend the read--you won't regret it.

2013 Progress:
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Rating: 4/5          

Pages: 302           
Page Goal: 657/21,500

Questions for my readers:

  1. In a historical fiction novel, what do you expect of the main character? Personal growth? Standing up for human rights? Something else?
  2. Do you read bestsellers right when you get them, or do they sit on your bookshelf for a while, too?

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