December 29, 2012
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Lily has grown up with the accidental death of her mother on her mind. She remembers little of it, but knows that somehow she was involved, and her father seems to blame her too, or at least he's not very nice to her. Her only companionship is a woman who her father has hired named Rosaline. Rosaline is ok, but with the racial tension in the South soon finds herself in trouble for trying to register to vote. Lily helps her escape prison and together they run away to South Carolina where Lily hopes to find some clue to her mother's past and find out if she was ever loved by either of her parents.
Lily is a strange girl, but she seems loving in her own way, even if she does get into quite a bit of trouble all the time. When it comes right down to it she's helpful and wants so desperately to fit in somewhere that she becomes misguided at times. Luckily the sisters who take her and Rosaline in are as charming as they are different. August, especially, is a good mother figure for Lily while June is somewhat standoffish and May a good friend. They all seem to appreciate each other though and I think that's what makes this novel so comforting.
The plot is a bit unbelievable. The fact that they could so easily flee from the town and her father and not be questioned more along the way makes you suspend disbelief a little bit. But the overall plot of belonging somewhere is a universal one. Everybody wants to feel that. And I liked the way all the characters interacted. Since it does take place during the Civil Rights movement there is always that in the background too and it causes some tension in the book. But largely the book didn't focus on that as much as it focused on the community the sisters had built and their acceptance of Lily and her friend Rosaline. The book does contain some religion, the sisters have created their own involving a statue of Mary that has hints of Catholicism and other spiritual aspects. Those parts can get a little drawn out, but does show the type of people they are.
A nice book, one that let's you see the light side of humanity. Even if it isn't perfect, it is still a good book for curling up by the fire with.
The Secret Life of Bees