Monday, April 9, 2012

The Secret Life of Bees book review

My rating = 5 stars - Gibbee!

From the book cover:
Set in South Carolina in 1964, The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. When Lily's fierce-hearted black "stand-in mother," Rosaleen, insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily decides to spring them both free. They escape to Tiburon, South Carolina - a town that holds the secret to her mother's past. Taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters, Lily is introduced to their mesmerizing world of bees and honey, and the Black Madonna.

When I first started reading this book, I wasn't sure if I would like it much. It seemed like just another story about an abusive father and his rebellious daughter. But it soon turned into so much more than that. The heart of this story lies in the relationship between Lily Owens and August Boatwright, a beekeeper who takes Lily and Rosaleen in. August is the embodiment of pure love. She is nonjudgmental and very patient with Lily, and becomes a second mother to the girl. Lily has a lot of anger towards her father she needs to resolve in her heart, and unanswered questions about her mother she needs to face. August gives her the time and space to do this, wrapping Lily in a sweet blanket of acceptance, kindness and love. Within this "nest" August creates for Lily, the girl is able to successfully accept difficult lessons for any teenager to understand, and evolves into a more mature character by the book's end.

The one part of the book that was a little - well, weird for me - was the character of Black Mary. She's not a person in the story, but a statue that represents the Virgin Mary, and comes to be the embodiment of motherhood and personal strength to Lily. This statue is something of a religious idol for August, her sisters, and their circle of friends called the Daughters of Mary. Every Sunday August holds religious services in her home for this group of women, and the services center around the statue, with singing, dancing and touching the statue in very worshipful ways. It was hard at times for me to see more into these scenes than plain physical idol worshiping, which I am personally against. Throughout the book, Lily comes to find great personal meaning in Black Mary, which helps her character evolve into a more mature, accepting and forgiving young woman. But the physical worshiping of the statue was, again, just weird.

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