I picked up this book after seeing a preview for the movie that’s coming out (or has it come out already? I’m sure it has, actually). The preview intrigued me enough to read the book, which I always prefer to do before seeing a movie. I love seeing the scenes I’ve read and imagined in my head come to life on the screen.
I hope that the movie does the book justice. If it does, I know it’s going to be one of those movies that makes me cry.
“The Secret Life of Bees” is all about one glorious, heartrending, knocker of a summer that one Lily Owens experiences in the sixties. She is haunted by the tragic death of her mother when she was four years old, and she spends her days with an abusive father and her black nanny, Rosaleen. She’s not content with her lot in life, but after Rosaleen is jailed and beaten by racists and her father tells her the one thing she can’t bear to hear, she decides to change it.
She undertakes a magical journey to a small town in South Carolina, where she is taken in by a black beekeeping family and learns some life lessons, among them the truth about her mother and father. (It sounds so clichéd, except maybe the “beekeeping” part, but to actually read it, it isn’t so bad.)
There are stereotypes – the racists are nothing more than that, racist, as are all of the police officers, and so forth. I have to say, though, that Kidd’s ability to write drew me beyond the lazily-attributed facets of some of the characters. I loved every single one of the sisters who took Lily and Rosaleen in; I loved Lily herself (she’s a wonderful character, smart and wily); I loved Zach and Neil and the rest of the Daughters of Mary. The author was excellent in drawing these characters together to form a family.
I also thought she did well at creating the setting, the South of the 1960s. Some details seemed heavy-handed; for instance, at one point, Lily randomly considers whether to do her hair in one of those “new beehive hairdos.” But it’s nothing that distracts from the overall quality of the book.
Now I’ll happily go see the movie, whether it’s good or not. I’m looking forward to it.