Wednesday, June 20, 2007

one down



Finished up my first selection, The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, from Southern Reading Challenge. I feel somewhat silly even writing about it, because I'm fairly certain there's probably only 2 or 3 people left out there who haven't already read it. I can say that I sure wish someone had given me a swift kick in the behind and told me to read it sooner! A enormously huge "THANK YOU" goes out to Maggie for hosting this challenge, because I fear without it I might never have gotten around to reading this gem of a book.

I probably should go back and quote Maggie directly, because she stated it far more eloquently than I'm about to paraphrase it...but in general, one of the things she wanted us to get out of this challenge was a sense of place and time and way of living in the South. You simply could not miss the "Southern-ness" of The Secret Life of Bees. Sue Monk Kidd had a way of dropping you right into South Carolina in the 1960s. As goes with any time in history or any place in the world, not everything about South Carolina in this turbulent time was enviable or admirable. Yet the charm of the wonderful Southern ladies is immense. It seems silly to fall in love with fictional characters, but it was impossible not to! I was blessed to grow up with a truly wonderful mother, and yet I couldn't help but wish that August was a part of my life.

I stuck little markers in the book as I read to help me recall some of the wonderful passages...

***"Where do you come from?" he asked me. This is the number one most-asked question in all of South Carolina. We want to know if you are one of us, if your cousin knows our cousin, if your little sister went to school with our big brother, if you go to the same Baptist church as our ex-boss. We are looking for ways our stories fit together. It was rare, though, for Negroes to ask white people where they're from, because there was nothing much to gained from it, as their stories weren't likely to link up.***
(This passage got me to wondering if this is true of all of the South. When we lived in TN for 11 years, I didn't find it to be true. But I suspect that might be because we were so obviously Yankees, that no one wasted their time with that question. Instead, overwhelmingly the most common question we got upon first meeting someone, was "What church do you go to?")

There were countless passages that allowed me to daydream that I was right there in beautiful South Carolina with Lily and Rosaleen...

***We waded through Queen Anne's lace and thick-stalked purple flowers, into dragonflies and the smell of Carolina jasmine so thick I could almost see it circling in the air like golden smoke.***

***Sunset is the saddest light there is. We rode a long time in the glow of it, everything silent except for the crickets and the frogs who were revving up for twilight. I stared through the windshield as the burned lights took over the sky.***

***We drifted by gray barns, cornfields in need of irrigation, and clumps of Hereford cows, chewing in slow motion, looking very content with their lives. Squinting into the distance, I could see farmhouses with wide porches and tractor-tire swings suspended from ropes on nearby tree branches; windmills sprouted up beside them, their giant silver petals creaking a little when the breezes rose. The sun had baked everything to perfection; even the gooseberries on the fence had fried to raisins.***

I could literally go on for hours quoting beautiful passages from this extraordinary book. This was not a book that made me laugh out loud, yet I couldn't begin to count the number of times I found myself with a smile on my face. And yes, there were a few tears as well. It's not often that I stumble upon a book that I fall so deeply in love with...

9 comments:

Dawn said...

Hi Debi, I read that book two (?) years ago and really enjoyed it. It was fun reading your passages. It brought back memories of the story.

take care,
Dawn

marianne said...

thanks for the great review, Debi. I'm one of those 2 or 3 who haven't read it yet - it's on my dresser, waiting - but you may just have motivated me to move it up higher on my list. :)

Nymeth said...

I am another one of those 2 or 3 people who haven't read it. However, it is on my list for the challenge - I ordered it last week, so it should arrive anytime now. I was already looking forward to reading it, but after your review, I just can't wait!

Jean said...

I was given Bees for my birthday a few years ago and read it cover to cover the afternoon I opened it. I could not put it down. It was just that good.

Corrie said...

Hey Debi!
Thanks for stopping by my blog today and leaving the comment...I sympathize with you on the audience waiting for you after your shower. Ha ha. I have not read this book yet, but your review has definetely got me interested! I'll have to check this one out!
Have a great day!
Corrie

gail@more than a song said...

I read that one last year and really enjoyed it! Loved reading some of the passages again...I think lots of people here will ask where you are from so it still happens from time to time.

kreed said...

It was a great book...your review makes me want to read it again. I am glad you at least got a few minutes this week to do something fun (like finish a book and post a great review!) - I hope you're not going too crazy!

Melody said...

I'm glad you enjoyed that book too, Debi! One of the reasons why I love reading fiction books is because they can be so thought provoking.

Stacy at Exceedingly Mundane said...

Oh, I'm so glad you liked it, I LOVED "The Secret Life of Bees". One of my most favorite books I've read in the last couple of years, and I read a lot (and usually enjoy what I read). I loved reading through the passages you quoted, such wonderful writing.