Monday, March 24, 2014

The Secret Life of Bees: a book club review

For the second month in a row our book club book was written by a woman about women's communities and relationships. Last month's disappointing fluff piece Best Friends Forever and the moving, enchanting The Secret Life of Bees couldn't be more different, however. The Secret Life of Bees was an honest and life-affirming tale I wanted to re-read as soon as I was done.

The Secret Life of Bees author Sue Monk Kidd writes beautiful, haunting, lovely scenes that stay with you - sucking cold crisp water off a smooth river stone; burnishing a wooden figurehead with honey and beeswax; the wavering heat of a Georgia summer; the wavering heat of a first summer love. She is masterful in creating a full sense of place - temperature, sights, sounds, smells all build a world around the reader.

The Secret Life of Bees opens with such a beautiful, slow-moving moment, and they continue throughout the book. If this novel were a piece of jewelry, those beautiful moments would be the well-crafted setting in which the precious stones of the story - the female characters - are securely displayed to their best effect. Darkness is present as well - torment, cruelty, individual and cultural injustice, heart-ache - but the overall effect of the book is one of hope. Not lightness, but hope.

After the vapid shallowness of Best Friends Forever it was validating to read a book that accurately represents, to me, the essential value of female relationships. Sisters, mothers (or mother figures) and daughters, friends, members of spiritual communities, employer/employee - a wide variety of women's relationships is revealed in The Secret Life of Bees naturally, slowly, and believably. There are arguments, there are upsets, there are secrets and revelations, and there is, under-lying it all, a faith in the unbreakable bonds between the characters, and in the resiliency and strength of the women. This is writing for, by and about women that reveals on every page the respect the author has for women. It's a refreshing change.

Follow this Amazon Associate Link to buy this book. 

Honey caramels. For real. 
Oh my goodness - when you read a book that features bees, bee-keeping and honey, you get a book club dinner that is as sweet and nourishing as the story itself. Our fabulous chef-hostess for the evening REALLY outdid herself - honey roasted pork loin, honey glazed young carrots, spinach salad with a honey balsamic dressing, scalloped potatoes (honey-free, for a little balance), and an amazing gluten-free honey cake for dessert. And then, just when you think it can't get any better, charming bee-accented gift packages with home-made honey caramels to take home. So much yum! 

Of course, even with an amazing meal, the conversation is still what makes our book club meetings unmissable, in my mind. It was the first time in a while that everyone has enjoyed the book (maybe the first time ever?). The book included a book club guide, but our conversations are always so varied and wide-ranging that the few questions that we considered were really just sparks for more laughter and learning. 

Once again at the end of the evening I'm left wanting more. I can hardly wait until next month when we have our first annual retreat. 

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