The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, is a lovely story about a motherless young white girl, Lily, in South Carolina in the 1960’s. She thinks she is responsible for her mother’s death, her father is emotionally blank, mean and makes her kneel on dry grits for punishment. She finds a picture of the Black Madonna on a label that belonged to her mother. When she runs away because she has helped a black woman, Rosaleen, break out of jail, they end up mid-state, near Columbia. And by chance, she sees honey with a label that matches the one she has. She gets directions and they arrive at the house of August and her sisters – a safe haven.
This is a great novel on many levels: if you are Catholic, you will appreciate the role that Our Lady plays in the lives of these women who are just achieving citizen status in the U.S. If you are a student of religion and culture, this is a study of what people do with religion and how religion changes through generations when the institutional church is missing – how the soul can remain. This is not a book with an agenda. It’s a sweet novel (no pun intended) about living and believing when hope is scarse.
I lived in South Carolina for 2 1/2 years. Sounds real to me…