Sorry (I ain’t sorr’) to say that this is not a spoiler free review. I guess I figure if a book has been around long enough for the movie version to be past the New Release rack, it’s all fair game.
I’ve sat down to write this review for The Secret Life of Bees so many different times and I just can’t figure out what to say. And it’s not because there’s nothing to say. It’s because how do you put words on that feeling you get when you’re broken open and speechless?
I don’t know if I could write about it but Sue Monk Kidd certainly would be able to. This woman has the most delicious words for every single situation. Sorry, other person in this world who might think that he has the best words—it’s not you, it’s Sue Monk Kidd. Her grasp of language and the ways that she laces it around unspeakable feelings feels like a gift. I couldn’t stop myself from instagramming my most favorite sections and phrases—trying desperately to do it justice.
On a basic level, the story is of a young girl, Lily, who escapes her abusive father. She breaks her housekeeper out of jail and together they travel to Tibron, South Carolina where they end up staying in a house where three sisters live. The oldest, August, runs a honey farm and takes Lily under her wing as an apprentice to the trade. Lily learns about bees and she learns about faith and she learns a little bit about what it’s like to be a white person, sympathetic to the black struggle in the 1960’s. Lily is the only white main character in the book and she comes face to face with her privilege on more than one occasion.
There are so many underlying stories spread throughout the book—so much to talk about but I’ve just got the one puney blog post in which to do it.
My most favorite supporting character was one of the sisters named May (I imagined her as played by Uzo Aduba). May was a woman with a delicate emotional eco-system. Her sisters helped her to manage her anxiety and empathy by encouraging her to build her own version of the wailing wall in the back yard. And when she was hurting, she’d go out there, write down her prayer, and stick it in the cracks in the wall.
As I was reading this book, so much was going on. The kid that fell into the gorilla pit, the Stanford rape trial, and then when I felt like I couldn’t take any more: the Orlando Shooting at Pulse. For a week, I was laid low. I felt like May. I wished that I’d had my own wailing wall instead of a Facebook wall.
One of my favorite, small parts of the book is when Lily is talking to Zach. He’s a few years older than her—seventeen years old. They’re sitting under a tree and they’re talking about their futures. He says he’s going to be somebody some day. She suggests that he would make a great football player.
“Why is it sports is the only thing white people see us being successful at? I don’t want to play football,” he said. “I wanna be a lawyer.”
“That’s fine with me,” I said, a little annoyed. “I’ve just never heard of a Negro lawyer, that’s all. You’ve got to hear of these things before you can imagine them.”
“Bullshit. You gotta imagine what’s never been.”
I read this passage and I left the book open on my chest and let that sink in like butter on warm bread. You gotta imagine what’s never been.
This book feels so apropos of the times we’re living in. Has much really even changed? Earlier in this book, a black woman acted disrespectfully towards a white man and she was beaten to a bloody pulp while a police officer watched. A punishment that far exceeded her crime. I can’t say that doesn’t happen on the regular in 2016. At no point was it terribly obvious to me that I was reading a period piece.
Today is the perfect day to pick up this book. The perfect day.
For the month of July, we’re going easy on you. Well… easy on you regarding page count. Not regarding content.
We’re going to be reading Chimamanda Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists. Adapted from her TEDx Talk of the same name, it’s a mere 64 pages. So you should be able to get through it in an afternoon and then pass your copy along to a friend (which is what I intend to do—in fact I bought two copies expressly for the purposes of sharing).
It’s the summer time so we don’t want to burden you with heavy, long reading materials when you should be out enjoying the long days and taking advantage of the #xoxosummerselfie challenge (which starts on FRIDAY!). But I can’t wait to hear what you all think of this piece.
Have you ever read The Secret Life of Bees? Let’s talk about it! What did you love? What did you wrestle with?
Did you picture August as played by 2016 Beyonce? Or was that just me?
And, hey, head over to see what Staci and Steph thought about this book, too!
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