Secret Life of Bees

My friend and I had an enlightening conversation on Historical Fiction and the significance of telling stories. My conclusion was that just because the significant event was horrible does not mean there was no room for beauty, love and self discovery. In my opinion, the hope that exists in those dark moments through love and beauty, often help us survive these horrible events, and inspire us to do better, to live better and to love better.

These make for great novels. And as far as great novels go, this one is high on my list.

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”

Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Following a snapshot of American History and the changes that came with integration, the story of Lily is so moving. The lesson, a very important one. I will not divulge it, as I do not wish to spoil it for you. If curiosity plagues you as it does me, pick up the book. It is worth it I promise.

The writing is easy to follow and the story compelling. At times I struggled to get through some of the scenes, the truly shook me to the core, but this is usually the case when it comes to reading these types of books. History isn’t always a pretty love story. It tends to be offensive and rude, but if it wasn’t change would not have come to pass.

I found many characters relatable and can picture some of these scenes so vividly. So often we tend to place ourselves inside a story and try to experience what these characters went through. Well, atleast I do, and for me that is a mark of a great story. The relatability of the characters. This tale of womanhood and self discovery was so enlightening that I found myself wishing for more. The tales that bring people together in search of love and acceptance are often very underrated, yet it is one of the most common aspects of being human.

The plot is easy to follow and the narrative quite convincing. But keep in mind the historical setting when reading or critiquing this novel. The characters’ behaviour, the phrasing of statements where done to accurately represent an era, that very few today have seen. So this may not be believable to you, if you are under the age of 30, for you have not lived in an era where these extremes where reached. That however does not make it a lie.

“A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.”

William Styron, Conversations with William Styron

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a tale on choosing your own family or has the motto “find your tribe”.

Synopsis

In Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees, 14-year-old Lily Owen, neglected by her father and isolated on their Georgia peach farm, spends hours imagining a blissful infancy when she was loved and nurtured by her mother, Deborah, whom she barely remembers. These consoling fantasies are her heart’s answer to the family story that as a child, in unclear circumstances, Lily accidentally shot and killed her mother. All Lily has left of Deborah is a strange image of a Black Madonna, with the words “Tiburon, South Carolina” scrawled on the back. The search for a mother, and the need to mother oneself, are crucial elements in this well-written coming-of-age story set in the early 1960s against a background of racial violence and unrest. When Lily’s beloved nanny, Rosaleen, manages to insult a group of angry white men on her way to register to vote and has to skip town, Lily takes the opportunity to go with her, fleeing to the only place she can think of–Tiburon, South Carolina–determined to find out more about her dead mother. Although the plot threads are too neatly trimmed, The Secret Life of Bees is a carefully crafted novel with an inspired depiction of character. The legend of the Black Madonna and the brave, kind, peculiar women who perpetuate Lily’s story dominate the second half of the book, placing Kidd’s debut novel squarely in the honored tradition of the Southern Gothic. –Regina Marler

What is the most important lesson you have learned in a novel? Let me know in the comments section.

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