The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Lily is searching for answers about her mother who died in a tragic accident when she was a toddler. Following a violent incident with her nanny Rosaleen and some racist men in their town, Lily and Rosaleen travel Tiburon, South Carolina. This town might be a clue to helping Lily find out who her mother really was.
The family that they stay with are 3 black beekeeper sisters. Here, they find shelter and Lily is able to search for the answers that she has had her whole life.
The writing and imagery was good, but I could not fully enjoy the coming-of-age story because I was on edge hoping that these black women would not be lynched for having the humanity to be hospitable to a white girl. Given that racists at that time committed some very violent acts with impunity, I was not sure which way the author was taking the story.
In the beginning chapters, Rosaleen was put in the hospital because of a confrontation. I have two thoughts on that whole incident as well because I feel that was the catalyst for the Lily moving and taking Rosaleen with her.
- There is NO WAY that a black woman at that time would do what Rosaleen did, knowing full well that those men would try to kill her.
- If a black woman of that era had done what Rosaleen did and if the sheriff allowed them to beat her while in jail, I doubt that they would have taken her to the hospital. They would have beaten her to death.
I read this book because it was picked by a member of my book club. I hesitate to read books from this time period because usually the issue of the racial discord is glossed over in such a way that tries to make it seem like things were not really all that bad. Essentially, the white people were privileged to do whatever they pleased, and for the most part, they did not question the division and inequality of races. It was accepted as that is how society was and there was no need to change it (which is still a problem BTW). The black people were wise enough to counsel and support the white person in their care, while being content with their lot in life to be subservient.
Therein lies one of the main reasons I have issue with people saying that they wished they could be back in the “good old days”.
But that is a post for another time…
All things considered, if you want to pretend that the ugliness of racial prejudice did not happen, the story is a heartwarming tale. If you or someone you know was negatively affected by the racially motivated domestic terrorism in the South during the 50s and 60s, you might be bitter like I was.