The Secret Life of Bees

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Blurb:
“Set in South Carolina in 1964, The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. When Lily’s fierce-hearted black “stand-in mother,” Rosaleen, insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily decides to spring them both free. They escape to Tiburon, South Carolina–a town that holds the secret to her mother’s past. Taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters, Lily is introduced to their mesmerizing world of bees and honey, and the Black Madonna.” 
My Review:
I love this book!!!! It has some kind of a hold on me, it’s strange, but I love it! I love the writing. Sue Monk Kidd is an excellent writer. I love the detail, the description, the characters, the plot, the feeling, everything…..except the language. The first 50 pages have A LOT of language in them. After that it isn’t too bad; there are a few words here and there. If you want to read it but don’t want to read the first 50 pages then call me and I’ll tell you what happens. Or, the summary above sums it up pretty well. I love how true to life it seems, even though it happened many years before I was born. I love the conflict in each of the characters. The character development is excellent. Each of the women feel like your best friend or next door neighbor. I also enjoyed watching the growth that each of the characters made over the course of the book. The symbolism with the bees is a wonderful addition that adds depth to the story. I just really love this book. Okay, I hope you don’t get your expectations too high now, but it’s really good.
Rating: R (Remember….this rating does not follow the actual movie ratings…it’s just my method of saying it is not appropriate for younger readers.) There is A LOT of language in the first 50 pages and I wouldn’t recommend it to someone who doesn’t want to read a lot of language, and it is not appropriate for children or early teens. Language, some racial conflict, and death.
Recommendation: I would recommend it (with the warning above) to 18+ years. I definitely recommend it, even if you need to skip the first 50 pages!
*This review was first published on 2/23/10

The Mermaid Chair

The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd
(Summary taken from the book jacket) “Inside the church of a Benedictine monastery on Egret Island, just off the coast of South Carolina, resides a beautiful and mysterious chair ornately carved with mermaids and dedicated to a saint who, legend claims, was a mermaid before her conversion. When Jessie is summoned home to the island to cope with her eccentric mother’s seemingly inexplicable act of violence, she is living a conventional life with her husband, Hugh, a life ‘molded to the smallest space possible.’ Jessie loves Hugh, but once there, she finds herself drawn to Brother Thomas, a monk who is soon to take his final vows. Amid a rich community of unforgettable island women and the exotic beauty of marshlands, tidal creeks, and mejestic egrets, Jessie grapples with the tension of desire and the struggle to deny it, with a freedom that feels overwhelmingly right and the immutable force of home and marriage.”
Oh, what to say about this book. After Secret Life of Bees I was very excited to read this book. Well, it was very different. If you step back and look at the over-all story, there are certain things that are similar in the books, but..wow. From  page 2 of this book you know the character is going to have an affair, and you know she is going to destroy her life. So after page 2 I was left wondering if I should even read it. I mean, if you read it are you being immoral for reading about a sordid love affair? You know there will be scenes of “physical intimacy.” You know that it is going to be a bad situation, and yet do you read it??? In one sense I didn’t want to read it because I didn’t know if it was morally right to read it. Then in the other sense I was so enthralled with the other aspects of the story, I wanted answers to my questions. And, I really wanted to see if this stupid lady would come to her senses and do the right thing. So did I read it??? Yes, I did. I am bad at stopping half-way. Was I glad I finished it??? Yes, I was. My questions were answered, and (I don’t want to give anything away) I was satisfied with the resolution. It ended up being a good book. It really made me think at the end. I don’t want to have the feelings she did in 10 more years, so I looked a lot at me, and what I can do to improve my really good marriage now, and also what can I do to help myself? This book shows a lot about human nature, love, forgiveness, mental illness, and friendship. It also shows how what happens to us in our childhood affects what happens in our adult lives. I do love her writing though. It really pulls you in.
Rating: R (Remember, this rating is not congruent with the movie ratings.) My R rating means that there is a lot of language and there is a lot of “physical intimacy.” The first intimacy scene is a little descriptive but from then on they just say they “made love.”
Recommendation: 18+, but really I would say you should be HAPPILY married, and strong in your relationship if you want to read this book. You should also have a good, strong set of morals and NO inclination to have an affair. I just say this because I had such a moral struggle to begin with, just because I knew the premise of the story. But, I think it ended up being a good thing in the end. So there you go…you have the info. so you can make your own choice.