BOOK REVIEW: The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
For at least two years, I’ve been saying I need to read more fiction. Read more fiction. Read more fiction. And it’s not that I’ve ever disliked fiction. There have just been so many memoir & essay-style books I’ve wanted to get my hands on, & reading hasn’t exactly been a speedy top priority over the past five years. But alas, I’ve kept adding books to my Amazon list to keep track of my hopeful quests, & one of those reads is The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. I don’t remember how I first heard of this book way back when. It was written in 2002 (the movie came out in 2008), but I probably heard about it a handful of years ago from Jen Hatmaker’s favorites list.
Anyway, Blake & I were at Barnes & Noble for a date night, & as per usual, I had repeated my typical B&N mantra before opening its majestic wooden double doors: I will not buy a new book. I will not buy a new book. And you may think it’s silly & pointless to go to a bookstore when you are trying to not buy a book at all, but it’s truly one of my favorite places to wander. I could explore the covers of books for hours or purchase a cup of coffee & sit between a couple of lonely shelves with a book I brought with me. I love it. So we are on our date, love is in the air, & somehow I think I left with three new books that night. I don’t even know how it happened. But one of them was The Secret Life of Bees, & I’ve never made a better decision.
Set in South Carolina 1964, the year of the Civil Rights Act, fourteen year old Lily Owens spends her hot summer days working T. Ray’s peach farm stand (that’s her dad, but the name dad has never suited him) and missing her mother who died in a gun accident when she was four years old. Rosaleen, who used to be a peach picker, was brought in by T. Ray the be Lily’s stand in mother after his wife died. Between Lily’s strained relationship with her father, her growing desire to know about her mother, & Rosaleen being thrown in jail on her way to register to vote, Lily takes charge. She sneaks Rosaleen away from the police & the two of them run away together. All along, the plan is to make their way to Tiburon, South Carolina, but that is the end of Lily’s plan. There, they meet August Boatwright. August is a beekeeper living in a pink house with her two sisters, June & May. Lily & Rosaleen work for August in exchange for room & board, & what was initially meant to be a temporary escape becomes the answer to so much of what Lily has been searching for all her life. For the first time, she sees the divine power of what it is to be female, surrounded by other strong females, including Mother Mary. Religion was always more of a rigid, male dominated experience for Lily, but now she’s seeing Mary for the first time & her concept of being lovable is forever changed.
This is an incredible story– one I look forward to reading with my daughters one day when they’re older. We learn so much about people through story, & history becomes alive, connecting us to one another & allowing us to see we are more alike than we realize.
After wrapping up the book, Blake & I watched the movie together (you can find it through Amazon or YouTube for $4). I usually have fairly low expectations when a book is adapted into a film, but this experience did not disappoint. I would still definitely say if you are a reader, you must, MUST read the book first! There is so much more detail & depth of the characters, even though the cast really did do a stellar job of bringing the author’s characters to life. It’s just not feasible to expect a novel to be made into a 2 hour movie. But this one did a pretty dang good job, & the cast is top notch with Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys, Jennifer Hudson, & Dakota Fanning.