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Do you know how it feels to call someone your own? What if, he/she is gone the next day? Worse still, you have no one but yourself to blame for it. What would you do? How would you recover the loss and overcome the guilt? For it is easy to forgive but hard to forget.
‘The Secret Life of Bees‘ by Sue Monk Kidd is a book for the wise. It is a women-centric plot exuding the inner strength of women in different roles and stages of their lives. The book fosters women empowerment and focuses on the issue of racism in the earlier times. Behold dear readers, as you enter the captivating world of bees, Black Madonna honey and, black and white women.
Lily Owens, a fourteen-year-old, white girl, is no damsel in distress. At the age of four, she accidentally kills her mother and has T-Ray in the name of a father who is a peach farmer. She chooses not to address him as her Daddy as his general demeanour is ruthless and bitter. In her head, she considers herself to be an orphan. However, Lily’s caretaker Rosaleen Daise, a black woman, loves her to pieces. No matter how naive and embarrassing she might be, Lily too, sees her as a fairy Godmother and confides in her.
As the story progresses, Lily and Rosaleen break away from the shackles of their lives in Svylan, South California to an incorporated town in Marin County, California- Tiburon. A name, she read at the back of the picture of Mother Mary which belonged to her mother. On reaching Tiburon, both homeless and clueless, Lily decides to knock the ‘Calender Sisters’ – August, June and May Boatwright’s door, well-known bee-keepers, for shelter. Much to their surprise, they are welcomed with open arms by the sisters other than June – who is a stereotypical prude.
During their stay at the ‘pink house’, Lily looks at the world with a completely different view. She is taught the right manners, the art of bee-keeping and most importantly, the value of human relationships. She’s taken aback by the generosity and unconditional love showered on both Rosaleen and Lily by the sisters – all blacks. Also, Lily imbibes the true spirit of Catholicism through The Daughters of Mary – for good. Staged in the 1960s, the story entails the very essence of racism to the roots. Being the only white in the house, she comes across the misjudgment, inequality and humiliation faced by the ‘colored’ race. So much so, Lily wishes for a ‘colorless’ world with no races at all.
Meanwhile, Lily carries her emotional baggage inclusive of the series of lies she had to tell to August and her family which made her all the more guilty. Although, both Lily and the Boatwright sisters were aware of her lies; she was never cross-questioned. Such was the magnanimity of August Boatwright. Until, one fine day, Lily confesses the truth about her past life. Little did she know, August happened to be Deborah Fontanel’s (Lily’s mother) Nanny once upon a time. Furthermore, she lived in the same pink house with the Calendar Sisters.
As the mystery unfolds, Lily has to bear with even harsher realities of life. At one point of time, she sees her entire life to be in shambles. For a fourteen year old, she had to understand too much in very little time. She had seen extremes of both love and hatred, happiness and sadness, life and death. Lily Owens, the girl with a strong mind, a vision and hope, learnt to live and let live.
Many of our readers might regard this to be ‘Utopian’. But, the bitter truth is, life does provide us with the inner strength to confront all our fears and failures, if need be. The choice is ours – to face it or run away. And yes, there is a Mother Mary within each of us. All it takes is, some courage – to forgive and forget.
It is easy to overlook a book with an appeal as ordinary as ‘The Secret Life of Bees’; just-another-bestseller on the book-shelf. So, here’s what makes it an enthralling read – it is therapeutic! The healing powers of this book can be felt in each of the 375 pages divided into fourteen chapters. Not only it exceeded my expectations but also restored my faith in humanity. The movie adaptation by the same name, starring Queen Latifah, Jenifer Hudson and the likes is highly recommended. MUST READ AND WATCH!
Overall Rating: 9/10
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