Saturday, May 30, 2009

"The Secret Life of Bees" by Sue Monk Kidd

Summary: Lily, a teenage girl with an abusive father, runs away when her African-American caretaker, Rosaleen, is arrested after a run-in with local racists. Lily and Rosaleen travel to Tiburon, South Carolina, where they are taken in by a trio of African-American women beekeepers. Through the sisters August, May, and June, Lily learns more about herself, her religion, and her dead mother.

Musings: This is a really popular book that I only recently got around to reading. Several of my students have read it for their book review assignment, and it only seemed right that I did so as well. I started it while waiting for a delayed flight at the airport and was surprised by the ease of reading.

The story itself follows familiar tropes, as the insecure teenager Lily learns to love others and love herself through the wise mother figures in her life. There is some acknowledgment of Lily's inherent racism and white privilege, but, for the most part, the racism present in the novel lies outside the main characters and in the prejudiced and cruel white townspeople.

Nonetheless, the book uses some unusual additions to the novel such as the introduction of beekeeping and the sisters' worship of the black Madonna. In this way the book is both woman- and nature-centric and celebrates the faith available from both.

The book is an interesting and quick "beach read" with more depth than other popular books.

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