74. THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES, BY SUE MONK KIDD
Recommended by Michelle, my most prolific recommender! I’ll probably spend a while reading the books she recommended. At least so far I’ve been enjoying them, so I’d recommend her recommendations…
Synopsis: Lily Owens is a 14 year old girl who has lived her life with an abusive father and the haunting knowledge that she was responsible for her mother’s death. When her stand-in mother, Rosaleen, is arrested and threatened, Lily finds the impulse she needs to escape home and go in search for her mother’s past. She ends up in a beekeeping farm, with three very special ladies.
Overall enjoyment: It was sweet and pleasant to read. Not the most original novel I’ve ever read, but thoroughly enjoyable.
Plot: It’s a coming-of-age story with nice undertones of feminism. It’s a bit naïve; considering the story is set in the 1960s, in the South of USA, in the middle of racial conflicts and with black characters, I would have expected there to be much more conflict and for the racial aspect to be much more important than it was.
Characters: They could have been better developed. Lilly has a very interesting voice, very well done, but the other characters are a bit flat… Many of them are quite stereotyped (Rosaleen being the “angry black woman”, August being the “magic Negro”, Zach Taylor being the “young angry activist” and so forth) but it’s not just the black ones, Lilly’s father is also very one-dimensional. It could be chalked up to how Lilly sees the world, though, since she’s the one telling the story.
World/setting: It has a much smaller importance than I expected. There is a background of racial tension, but in the end it’s very minor, with few consequences or complications.
Writing style: I always cringe a bit when I see that the narrator of a book is supposed to be a young girl; in my experience, writers tend to fail miserably when trying to produce a young girl’s voice. In this book, however, I think she was very successful.
Representation: Most of the characters are black.
Political correctness: Even though equality is really not the main theme, she does manage to include some discussion about it, and it’s a lot less heavy-handed than it could have been. The sorority she creates, with women who worship the Black Mary almost paganistically, is delightful, but a lot more heavy-handed on feminism. (Just to be clear, I have no problem with heavy-handed feminism; in fact, I often think media that is considered feminist is too light-handed.)
Up next: Servant of the Bones, by Anne Rice