Book Review (#26): The Secret Life of the Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

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Although I probably shouldn’t be after the day I’ve had, I actually am in the mood for sitting and breaking down my reading experience of a book I’ve finished a few weeks ago. I would’ve written the review right away had I been free enough to do this. But thanks to commuting and headaches that are so closely related to coming back home from uni, I only got to write it now.

secret life of bees

As always, we’re going to start out with some history. I heard of the Secret Life of the Bees back when the movie came out. This was the kind of thing I watched with subtitles to improve my English; and back then, Dakota Fanning was one of the few actresses I knew and admired. It wasn’t until a few years ago though that I came to find out that the movie is based on the book. I can assure you that by the time I’d discovered that, I’d forgotten all about the details of the movie that I could barely remember what it was about. And now that I’ve read the book, I can assure you that I probably didn’t even understand the movie. Like at all. Which is, I believe, a good thing because I got to read the book and enjoy every little bit of it without having my hazy memories of the movie tarnish it.

But let’s say I did remember the movie and I knew exactly what was going to happen… Would that have made me enjoy the book any less? Well, I doubt it. For me, this book was about the writing than the basic story and its series of unfortunate (and relatively fortunate) events. Because, let’s face it, the story line is hardly unique. This is the story of a girl who wants to know the truth about her dead mother, and winds up falling into a convoluted whirlwind of events. Nothing too new and shiny over here! Yet, even though I need a book to be very compelling so that I can cuddle it at six in the morning and then 9 hours later on the way home after a strenuous day of classes, this one worked just fine with its humble structure and myriad events. Why, you ask? It’s because the narrator just spoke to me.

The sound of the person behind the words just seems so fitting and tells everything that needs to be delivered with perfectly polished speech, imaginative comparisons, and brilliantly put together sentences. You can tell that the narrator opts to be a writer one day, as is mentioned several times over the course of the story, and you can also tell she’s built well for it. She just takes inspiration from the world around her the way I believe every good writer should and she integrates her discoveries into the things she writes, constantly giving her speech a sparkling edge.

Another thing I found interesting about the book is how it discusses religion. Faith is a topic that’s frequented throughout the story, but somehow, it’s not forceful the way some books can be when they’re trying to tackle spirituality. I just hate it when a book tells you what you should think, especially if it’s fiction. I think the purpose of fiction is putting a story out there with as many implications as you like, then just let the reader make their own inferences. And this is what I felt this book was able to achieve.

Not only does it tackle religion gracefully but also racism and the struggle of coloured people in the story’s setting without making the story all about that either.I think this is where the characters really get to shine. It makes so much sense that a girl trying to figure herself and her life out would have a lot to learn about how just skin colour could cause such a massive divide. I love how this book slightly reverses the situation, putting a single white character amid a population of black people. The way the emotional impact of this “predicament” develops as the story progresses is, in my opinion, very well done.

-insert thoughtful sigh here-

Why not five stars though? Well, even though the book does a pretty good job with everything, it just is “pretty goood”. It’s touching and thought-provoking and everything, but certainly not mind blowing, which is totally okay, by the way. But I star-rate books based on instinct, and this is what my instincts have instructed this time around.

I think that what this book does is just offer comfortable medium, presenting a world that is so normal and so well-structured that you’ll think you can find it behind your neighbor’s door. I felt like a bee, basically, getting a view of a little bit of everything, lingering in specific places more than others, buzzing about some characters more than others, but still managing to keep the complete picture in site. And there are certain issues that I just pierced into, getting into the heart of things, moved to the verge of tearing up, but managing to keep a soft smile anyway because it all is just beautifully crafted. I saw everything through a warm, golden veil, like everything was slobbered up in honey, glowing through it, gleaming into a breath-taking narrative that I was sad to finally have to abandon.

-insert yet another sigh here-

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3 thoughts on “Book Review (#26): The Secret Life of the Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

  1. I have had this book for quite a few years and have yet to read it. Lived the movie! You’ve motivated me to elevate it in my reading queue! Such revealing insights you’ve offered, especially related to the bee theme. I remember feeling the same way about an Anglo in the minority–always nice to experience that, even if only in a literary experience! I appreciative your own writing ability! Thanks you for your thoughts.

    • You should really read the book, especially if you feel that you might relate to it. It just is beautiful and sensational, but also powerful and raw sometimes. That’s why it feels real.

      Thanks for the enthusiastic comment! 😀

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