July 8, 2010

book club: the secret life of bees.

Last night was book club night and we had a lot of fun discussing our book for June The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. Set in South Carolina in 1964, this is the story of fourteen year old Lily Owens who leaves home in search of freedom from her oppressive/abusive father and answers about her mother who was killed when Lily was four. She ends up in Tiburon, South Carolina after her stand-in mother/black nanny insults three very racist men from her hometown. In Tiburon she meets the black beekeeping Boatwright sisters, August, June, and May. Lily discovers the worlds of beekeeping and honey, the Black Madonna, and the power of sisterhood. This is a novel that inspires and makes you feel good.

One of the topics we discussed last night was how prominent race issues were in the book but how, at the same time, it didn't feel like Sue Monk Kidd was shoving the issue into the spotlight. Instead she artfully and subtly weaves issues of race in South Carolina in the 1960s into the story line. As a reader, you are able to feel the injustice of race politics even more strongly because of how she shows you the difficulties, she doesn't just tell you about them. That is the mark of a great author.

We also discussed the importance of sisterhood and community and how difficult it is feeling like you do not belong anywhere. We also spent a lot of time talking about T. Ray, Lily's dad (but as she says "I called T. Ray because 'Daddy' never fit him). We talked about who he truly was, if he ever told the truth, and if he was more involved in the killing of Lily's mom than he ever lets on in the novel. We also spent some time discussing what happens in the future for Lily, Zach, August, and the Daughters of Mary. It was really fun imagining beyond the story together. Shelley did a great job leading the discussion asking really interesting and poignant questions that really got us thinking.

Overall, this was a great book club night sitting out on the balcony - because it was just too stinkin' hot inside - with iced tea, lemonade, and great discussion. For the month of July we are reading The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill (a Burlington, Ontario based writer, so close to home). Feel free to join us while we aim to read it by August 3rd. Did you read The Secret Life of Bees with us or have you read it before? If so, what did you think of it? What did you love and what did you not? Leave your comments below.

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