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The Secret Life of Bees

I'm very glad that I read this book before seeing the movie. I don't think I'll watch the movie, because I expect that it will disappoint.

It didn't take me long to be completely sucked in - 19 pages, to be exact. And 129 before I had to flip to the end to make sure things turned out okay.

I felt for Lily. I wanted to take Lily in and stand up for her. I wanted to reach into 1964 South Carolina, shake some people (maybe slap them!) and shout in anger at how ridiculous segregation is. I wanted Zach to want her. I wanted August to be exactly like she was - wise, patient, and gentle.

There are only two things that were less than amazing in The Secret Life of Bees, and they are the same two things that irked me just a little in The Mermaid Chair, another book by this author.

The first is that I find the symbolism a little heavy-handed. In both stories, there is an object - or really, a collection of objects - that plays a deeply significant and spiritual role in the story. But the integration of these objects lacks, to me, a certain subtlety. There is no gradual integration or dawning realization Oh, I get it! It's all spelled out for the reader.

The other thing that doesn't quite sit right with me is her portrayal of the divine. What I gather from both books is a sense of divinity and power that is all-infused - in nature, in all humanity, in everything - and distinctly feminine. Now, I'm not saying that spirituality or "the divine" is fully removed from creation and limited to masculine realms...but that I find myself somewhere in the middle ground between the two extremes. To say much more would require an entry in I'll leave it at that.

Rating: 8.75/10

(since I didn't rate Eleanor Rigby in her entry, I'll do it here: 9.5/10)


Laura J said…
is there any possibility that we are uncomfortable with feminine divinity because the portrayal of divinity has been so distinctly masculine within christianity? if we are all made in His image, which I believe we are, then doesn't that preclude that all things masculine and feminine are encompassed within God?

I'm glad you liked it. you should research the author. IT will shed some very interesting light on the subject matters she writes about.
Beth said…
hey laura, i agree that historically there is a huge resistance to any of the feminine imaging of God that actually exists in christianity...

but what troubles me in this book, in particular, mary is elevated above Jesus, and i can't explain away the obvious idolatry of worshiping the statue...that's what i mean by taking it one step further than i would.

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