Sue Monk Kidd – “The Secret Life of Bees” (21/52 books challenge)

Secret Life of BeesIt’s another one about the fight for black people’s rights, so of course I’d start it. It’s also a coming-of-age novel, in a way, and it has a first person narration. What more do I need?

It’s set in 1964, in South Carolina. A 14-year-old Lily accidentally killed her mom when she was four, and she’s been living with abusive father and a black housekeeper Rosaleen ever since. One day, Rosaleen insults three white men and is arrested, so they both run to Tiburon. Lily wants to search for the secret of her mother’s past there. They find refuge on a farm with three (black) sisters, and with bees.

If I was to describe this book in one word, I’d say it’s a lovely story. It’s very subtle, and full of magic. It’s about growing up, about searching for one’s identity, about fighting for what’s important. Also, it’s about the power of women (black women) and about black Madonna. And bees.

It was a really fast read; nice, easy style. Each chapter was preceded with a sentence or two about the life of bees. It didn’t have much to do with the story, but as much uninterested I am in bees, I found this pretty engaging. But maybe that’s because I generally like to know things, even about something that normally doesn’t do much for me. I mean, they’re bees. Yes, I am grateful for the honey, but that’s pretty much it. But these short fragments made me interested – even if just a little bit.

Another thing I loved was the three black sisters. Each of them stood out for her own; stubborn June, knowledgeable August and sweet May. I think May made this book. Yes, she was pretty unrealistic, and maybe in real life a person like her would be a little annoying, but as I said, it was just a lovely story. So, in this story, everybody loved May. And so did I.

This makes me think I may not be such a cynic as I sometimes think I am.

This and another fact. Black Madonna. The black women in this book had this weird cult of Black Madonna, and said and did a lot of things that would normally make me laugh. Somehow, though, there was some sincerity and simplicity in their faith, and somehow instead of funny, I found it beautiful and admirable.

But I usually find real faith admirable. Real faith that doesn’t harm anyone, that is.

Overall, I loved it. Even though it consisted of some unlikely coincidences, which made the book unrealistic, I didn’t care. It’s a lovely story of growing up, with a fight for human rights in the background. It has great characters, nice plot and subplots and good, fast writing. Seems light, but deals with important topics. Recommended.

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