This past Sunday Catherine and I went to our mother-daughter book club meeting to talk about The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. Ellen cooked a great southern-themed dinner to go with the book; we feasted on ham, biscuits, corn fritters and green beans. Of course there was honey. It’s hard to read this book and not start to crave honey on the comb. As a southern-born-and-raised girl I was as happy as could be.
When the book was chosen, I was a little worried that I would be bored reading it. I had already read it twice: first in a women’s book club I used to belong to and the second time with Madeleine for her mother-daughter book club. But I need not have worried.
I started to read the first page to Catherine and was instantly reminded of how much I love the book, and how much I admire the way Sue Monk Kidd writes. The characters are well developed and their emotions leap off the page as real, not just words written about what they are feeling. I ache for Lily in so much of the book, and it’s easy to see that her need to have a mother who loves her influences everything she does.
We all talked about a favorite character, and it was interesting to note that nearly every character in the book is developed well enough to have a following. Some of us thought that August was too perfect, and that the pink house was too much of a utopia. But we also recognized that the issues dealt with were very complicated, and the story needed August’s wise voice to sort through them.
Racial tension and the civil rights movement was also a large issue underlying the story. It’s interesting how relevant that issue is today in light of the presidential campaign and election. When I shared some of my stories about growing up in the south during those racially turbulent times, the girls looked on as though I was talking about a foreign country. In many ways, that era does seem foreign, and Obama’s election is testament to how far we’ve come since then.
We plan to see the movie as a group next week. We’re looking forward to talking afterward about how the two compare. I highly recommend The Secret Life of Bees for mother-daughter book clubs with girls in high school.