Saturday, August 27, 2011

Reflections: The Secret Life of Bees

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Marie Teemant shares some feelings on Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees:

"The book has been sitting on my shelves for the last several years, waiting to be picked up. I saw the movie and it only made me want to read the book more. This summer I made the goal to finally do it! I was going to get this one off the shelf and dust off the pages. Definitely worth the effort to set aside the school work for.

The Secret Lives of Bees is one of those books by a woman and very much written for women. With a subtle backdrop of the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement ever present, this book is more about the connections of the main character, Lily, to the women in her life. First and foremost, the mother who died when she was young, followed by her caretaker Rosaleen, the Boatwright sisters (all named after summer months) who they live with, and finally with a divine mother figure, the Black Mary statue that becomes the symbol of religious belief among the characters.

The pacing of the novel is its biggest strength. The up and down of life is felt in the incidents that flow from the decisions of both major characters and others that would, by virtue of circumstance, influence them. Nothing feels out of place, but if you’re expecting a large build up to one major conflict, you may find yourself a little disappointed. In fact, what may be the largest matter of conflict builds about two-thirds of the way through, and nothing else can seem to overshadow this event, even the closing moment of tension. This, though, makes you feel as though you’re reading a journal or memoir—where even the worst tragedies don’t have the power to bring the world to a halt, but hopefully leave us with some sense of how to move forward and learn from them.

The characters themselves also move along everything that happens with their decisions, which is a quality in literature that I always appreciate. The variety of personalities are well described by Kidd through dialogue as well as action. Lily’s reactions to each of these women teaches us not only about them, but about Lily and the view of the world that has been handed down to her.

Overall, I would recommend this to any woman looking for a great read to uplift and inspire. For the men out there… you may enjoy it as well, but I can’t guarantee that you’ll quite connect to the spirit of the novel as a whole."

You can find more of Marie Teemant's writings and photos at her blogs:  Judge by the Cover, Rie Around the World, and Rie Reads.

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