Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Secret Life of Bees

Still photo from

"The Secret Life of Bees" was a NY Times bestseller I intended to read but studiously avoided, fearing I'd become depressed by tragedy, racial discrimination, death and more. I was more aware of it as a successful book than I was of the content. So, I never read it. What a mistake.

Typically, I read a book and, if I love it, reluctantly see the movie which is almost always a disappointment. With few exceptions, "Cider House Rules" and "Gone With the Wind" come to mind, the movies are glamorized, edited, re-written for a larger audience, sanitized, etc. by Hollywood and the original story lines suffer in comparison.

Last night, my husband and I watched the film version of "The Secret Life of Bees". We loved it.
It was a surprise. I did not expect to like it. I expected it to be a cliche version of some white vs black racial thing...sugar coated for good measure. Instead, my husband and I watched a sweet, sad story about a little girl searching for truth about her dead mother, herself, and life. She finds it in the home of three African American women who make honey. She finds it with her African American friend whom she helps escape from a hospital jail after she's beaten by white men in a small southern town.

I was curious to see if the film was widely panned as I thought I remembered. For the most part, yes. The larger papers, NY Times, Chicago Trib, LA Times, are not positive. There is a lovely review by the Florida Sun Sentinel that praises it for being about "women helping women".

Perhaps the more interesting place to find information is the author web site. Sue Monk Kidd was raised in Georgia during the Fifties & Sixties, a critical and tension filled time. Those of us who remember the race riots, the National Guard/martial law, the murders, beatings, fire hose spraying, dog attacking incidents of those times, well, it's amazing how quickly we forget. I don't know if the story is too redemptive. I don't see what's wrong with redemption. We all want to be saved.

I'm going to read that book.


Andrea said...

Definitely read the book. It is well worth it. Now, I should see the movie!

____Maggie said...

Oh, you must read it! There are some scenes left out of the movie which are rather funny. I'm thinking of the cooling bath in the river by our two travelers. Also, one gets a better understanding of May's wall through the book. Well worth a read! :)

We were talking for weeks about it, and my best friend hated it! Our older book discussion group also hated it, but they are a generation born in the 30's and were appalled with the racial mix.

I'm currently reading Going Down South by Bonnie Glover. It deals with a 15yo going to Alabama to hide away as she has her baby. It is set in the 60's and I haven't felt any racial tension (p61) yet, but I'm still on the road.

____Maggie said...

Oh, thanks for thinking of me! :D

California Girl said...

Hi Andrea: Thank you for the comment.

Maggie: I knew you'd have covered this book in one of your groups. I was in a book group for a couple of years but they picked so many Oprah books that were ceaselessly downbeat, I had to stop. I need a mix.

Both Ladies: I will read this.

R.L. Bourges said...

Cmhecking out Sue Monk Kidd - thanks for the reference.

Redemption? I'm all for it when it's not the fakey-fakey kind. But it doesn't make good copy, apparently. People helping people - how boring is that? :-)

Let us know how you like the book.

Lover of Life said...

I read the book, but didn't watch the movie. It was wonderful.

Movies that are made from good books usually disappoint me. Will have to give this one a try.

Tanna said...

Oh, my gosh! You have to read her Dance of the Dissident Daughter! I enjoyed The Secret Life of Bees, but loved the other!

Mary Ellen said...

Sue Monk Kidd also has written a memoir of exploring (and embracing) feminist spirituality, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, after a career as a more conventional religious writer. Her earlier writing is also still in print. If you read the Dissident Daughter, you will see some of the behind-the-scenes thinking and life experience that inform the symbols and plot of The Secret Life of Bees, as well as her second novel, The Mermaid Chair. But both novels work just fine as they are. I personally liked the first one best. I'd be interested in what you think!

California Girl said...

Okay Tanna & ME, now I have to read "The Dance of the Dissident Daughter" and then I'll read "The Secret Life of Bees". Sounds like that's the order in which to read. I'm finishing up "Arthur & George" by Julian Barnes (it's okay) and need a new book. I always appreciate insight into books before I read them. There are so many from which to choose nowadays and I have to make the time to read, what with the blogging and all!!!

soapymomponders said...

I love Sue Monk Kidd but did not realize this book was by her. I will definitely have to read it.
Just found your blog and enjoying it immensely. I'm a right-brainer myself but I do get to write... technical stuff. LOL! Had to start a blog to put some creativity out there somewhere.

California Girl said...

Welcome sopaymomponders! The older I get the more my right brain kicks in. I kept reading menopause books while I was in perimenopause (11 yrs thank you very much) and they all said women become much more creative after that. I kept waiting and now I think it is true. Maybe the hormones block us?!


by Cole Scott