While blood is thicker than water, beeswax and honey keep people together.
Sue Monk Kidd’s auspicious debut novel revolves around young and petulant Lily Owens as she navigates life on her abusive father’s peach farm with the blurred memory of her mother’s accidental death. Set in South Carolina in a time of overt racial tension, her black housekeeper and nearest hope to motherly-love, Rosaleen, scandalizes the town by registering to vote. Lily springs Rosaleen from the hospital she’s kept at and the two go on a quest to uncover her mother’s past, which eventually leads them to three motherly sisters, The Boatwright’s, who own a honey farm. Lily and Rosaleen are introduced to their memorable world of bees, honey, female divinity, and womanhood.
Lily is, at first, a force to be pitied. With a dead mother and sadistic father, sympathy is almost demanded of the reader from the get-go. As the story takes flight, however, it becomes evident that she represents a sincere, reliable voice of a fourteen-year-old whose wide-eyed wonder comes across as naive without that annoying connotation. She embraces the opportunity to learn under the Boatwright’s roof; moreover, the spiritual kinship between Lily and the matriarchal hive provides a space for her to grow as a young woman and come to terms with her motherless childhood. Although this introduces dark themes, the backbone of Lily’s growth is demonstrative of a quest for independence and how one can be the mother figure they seek on their own.
Ultimately, Kidd, whose writing is smooth as honey, draws you into the brutal heat of a South Carolina summer in her heartwarming, empowering novel. The characters are multifaceted—moralistic and flawed—and make sense of the world in peaceful yet powerful ways, an admirable attribute for young readers everywhere.
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About the Author: Sue Monk Kidd
Sue Monk Kidd is best known for her first novel The Secret Life of Bees (2002), which was adapted as a movie of the same name in 2008. It remained on the New York Times bestseller list for more than two years, has been translated into 36 languages, and has sold more than eight million copies worldwide.
Her second novel, The Mermaid Chair, was published in 2005 and won the Quill Award for General Fiction that same year. Two years later, Kidd’s abundance of spiritual essays and inspirational stories was collected into a single volume, Firstlight: The Early Inspiration Writings. Her other works include Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story (2009) and The Invention of Wings (2014).
Currently, she's the Marketing Director and Web Editor for her University's student-run literary magazine, 'The Inkwell.' She's also a contributing writer for the magazine and has numerous poems published in their issues.