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Monday, November 21, 2005

cover of Secret Life of Bees

A truly wonderful book. Lily Owens grows up with the horrible knowledge that it is her fault her mother is no longer with her. Her father is bitter and abuses her (because she always reminds him of his wife, and he has no other way to deal with his pain). They have a housemaid, Rosaleen, who is black, which is important because the book takes place in South Carolina during the time the Civil Rights Act is enacted. Some unexpected events happen, and the two of them run away to a town whose name was written on the back of a picture from Lily's mother. The picture is of a black Madonna. Throughout the story there are images of womanhood and femininity and what it means to love and receive love.

Lily and Rosaleen end up 'coincidentally' with three sisters (August, May, and June) who keep bees, make all sorts of honey and wax products, and who live life fully - in some ways. May, the youngest sister feels life intensely – almost like she cannot separate the pain of the world from herself. To deal with the immensity of pain her sisters come up with the idea of a wailing wall in which she can stick notes that she writes about the pain. That idea is beautiful to me – that sometimes we have problems too big for us, and we can just put them in the wall or give them to God and He'll take care of them (since He already is...).

Truth is interspersed throughout the novel – not a preachy sort of truth, but ideas you read and go 'hmm' because they resonate in your soul. Truth can be simple, obvious, or profound - and sometimes all three at once. Running away is not the answer, but sometimes to stand against evil you have to run away to get strong enough.

Title:The Secret Life of Bees
Author: Sue Monk Kidd
Date published:2002
Genre: Historical Fiction
Number of pages: 302
Notes: Recommended by Mel


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