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The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

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The fundamental story of the book is simple—a white motherless girl who ran away from her abusive father—and even a bit cliché. The book has depth though, like the metaphor of the bees and the Boatright sisters. And the writing is beautiful. I was mesmerized by it. The writing is smooth and stunning, but it was still able to stab feelings into my heart. However, what I really didn’t like about the book is I felt the author stretched the storyline too long, and it was unrealistic and overly dramatic at some parts.

You would think of bees as the annoying stinging pests. This book completely changes that. It’s from the first page of the book when you picture the bees squeezing through the cracks of the wall that you gain this shocking appreciation for them. I learned so much about bees in this book that I now I do indeed agree that they lead such secret and complicated lives. One of my favorite parts about the bees is in this quote: “‘They’re cooling the hives down… That’s the sound of one hundred thousand bee wings fanning the air… You were listening to bee air-conditioning.’” Boy, I would love to hear that! “Then the whole side of my face started to vibrate as if the music rushed into my pores. I could see August’s skin pulsating the tiniest bit.”

The black characters were wonderfully developed and each of their uniqueness was interesting to read about. The strong relationship between the Boatright sisters was heartwarming, and each of them is lovable. Rosaleen was also an entertaining character—the colorful way she spoke, her almost childlike attitude, and at other times, her determinedness to vote. It’s Lily who I’m not sure about. I understand how she must feel, like she never got to know her mother, or how her mother’s life is a complete mystery to her. However, sometimes I felt she overreacted. Parts of the book were overly dramatic and corny. Like, who sucks on river stones? The way Lily acted sometimes actually made me want to say, “Come on, seriously. It can’t be that bad. You’re making a huge deal out of nothing.” Some of her behavior just wasn’t that reasonable.

Something that also was unrealistic is how Lily, a white girl, lives in the black-colored house for so many days without any trouble from the police. This isn’t uncommon now of course, but the book takes place in 1964 when there was discrimination against blacks even after the civil rights act were passed. The police just warns Lily, and never comes to inspect the house to see if she moved out. What’s even more, the police doesn’t recognize Lily or Rosaleen, and you would think the police would be on the lookout for the white girl that broke a black women out of jail.

I am unsure about the spiritual aspect of book. The rituals and the stories were interesting, but I’m just not so spiritual and I wasn’t expecting any spirituality in this book. I also don’t quite understand what the Lady of Chains represents.

I liked it and it was pretty interesting actually (the bees, the Boatright sisters, the writing style). However, sometimes I felt that the story was unbelievable, too dramatic, and extended unnecessarily.



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