Wednesday, June 4, 2014

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

(I got my copy from my library, so I didn't have a choice: I had to read the copy with the movie tie-in cover.  *shudder*  WHYYY do publishers do this??  At least this one was eye-catching honey-gold, so lots of people would ask me what I was reading and I'd get to tell them, and then also tell them how wonderful it was!)

Plot summary from the back of the book:  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 women will share and pass on to their daughters for years to come.

FIVE OF FIVE ENTHUSIASTIC STARS TO THIS!  I think I was only about 50 pages in when I started mentally kicking myself for not having read any Sue Monk Kidd before now!

I love the writing style.  I love how realistic it is; you really feel like you're back in your 14-year-old self when you're reading it.  I also love how you can just feel the Southern accents dripping like honey out of the characters' mouths.  I was raised in the South and am proudly biased toward Southern writing.  I just love it!  It always takes me a little longer to read books set in the South though because my mental narration slows down with the accent!  lol

I love the setting.  Tiburon, SC is a fictional town but there's tons of references to real places nearby.  In fact, this book is so popular that official SC government sites such as have pages for Tiburon, since so many people try to search for it.  (The page you land on informs you gently that Tiburon is fictional, and urges you to look into real SC places to visit.)  At one point a character talks about "sending someone to Bull Street," meaning to send someone to the mental hospital.  I used to live in Columbia, SC and that mental institution is real!  I used to drive past it frequently, right there on Bull Street.  This book takes place over the course of a summer, and Sue Monk Kidd does a fantastic job capturing the feel of the heat of an SC summer.  It's oppressive.

I love the characters.  The book is told entirely from Lily's point of view, but there are essentially five total main characters.  They are all so well-developed and 3-dimensional!  Ya'll, this is not a long book.  For Ms. Kidd to have developed these characters so fully took real talent.  I just fell so in love with all these strong women in this book!  By the end of the book I was ready to pack my bags and move to Tiburon.

My only gripe:  there's no follow-up!  There's no second book!  And in the author interview in the back of my copy, Sue Monk Kidd says that she doesn't plan to write one.  So now I'm all kinds of emotionally invested in these fine ladies in Tiburon and I will never know for sure how it turns out for them.  

I loved the book so much that I went ahead and put in a request at the library to get the movie.  What the hey!  I'll give it a try.  Anything to spend just a little more time with the Black Madonna Honey family.

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