My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Secret Life of Bees has been on my “to read” list for years and years. Why I waited so long, I can’t really say. I avoided the movie so I could read the book first; however, I think I may skip the movie altogether because I so thoroughly enjoyed the book.
The well-paced story and solid character development make this a great book for writers to dig into, but I read it this first time through for the sheer pleasure of taking a little mental vacation down to the farm. And being from Columbia, SC, I got a special kick out of all the local references (Bull Street!).
I saw only a couple instances where the timing jumped or the plot thinned enough to break rhythm. This time period in South Carolina was, unfortunately, much more dangerously violent than the book portrays, although I’m not sure being more realistic on that front would have added much to the story. Some of the other “unrealistic” items/passages can easily gloss over within the innocence of the 14 year old storyteller, with the exception of what happens to May. I won’t spoil here – I’ll just note that over the course of a couple pages the book drops from 5 stars to 4 (well, 4 1/2 really, if the ratings would let me) because a carefully crafted character shifts in unbelievable ways (with a terribly forced presentation, to boot!)
Race remains as a hot topic around here, with 2015 seeing the flag over the Capitol finally come down (having flown there since 1961 – the time around this book). I’m not so sure a white girl living with a bunch of black woman wouldn’t raise some eyebrows even today. If you’re looking for a good quick read that is wildly appropriate for Black History Month, this might be your pick.