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The Secret Life of Bees: 10/25/08
With the film adaptation of Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees in theaters right now the internet is awash in reviews of both the book and the film. I swear I didn't plan my review based on current events! Sometimes though, things just work out that way.
With it's 1964 South Carolina setting the novel takes its place with other emotionally charged books: The Color Purple by Alice Walker, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg, and the nonfiction Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley. While the book shares similar themes and historical points of interest, Kidd's novel is far more up-beat.
Of course the novel isn't one long happy string of events, how could it be when story centers around a teenage girl trying to find the secret of her mother's life while trying to escape from her abusive father? There is also the on going theme of tolerance in the face of societal bigotry. Despite all of these heavy themes, the three beekeeping sisters: August, June and May and their love for each other as a family and their unconditional welcoming of Lily and Rosaleen, bring a warmth and tenderness to this book and help put human faces on a rough piece of American history.
The book isn't though just about the year of the Civil Rights Act. It's also about beekeeping. Each chapter begins with a quote from one of a short list of famous beekeeping references. Of course these snippets play into the human drama. Read the quotes before the chapter begins to get a feel for what is coming next and to learn a thing or two about bees.
As fate would have it, I started the novel the day after the second season of Pushing Daisies aired. The first new episode was called "Bzzzzzzzzz!" and has a bee house (although greatly exaggerated) as Lily describes her bedroom in the opening chapter. With that odd connection in my mind, I was forever picturing the novel in the over done fashion of Pushing Daisies.
Nonetheless, I enjoyed the novel start to finish. Even if you have no plans to see the film adaptation, go read the book.
Learn more about Sue Monk Kidd at her website.
Loved this one, but I was disappointed in The Mermaid Chair. I'm curious to see how the movie stacks up to the book, though.
Comment #2: Thursday, October 30, 2008 at 11:37:10
Thanks for the reminder about The Mermaid Chair. I was trying to remember the book's title. I'm also curious to see how The Secret Life of Bees translates to film but I'll wait until it comes out on DVD.