My reviewRating: 4 of 5 stars
After reading this novel, the first thought that came to mind was, "Oh! The symbolism!" This book is chalk-full of rich imagery that begs for some type of dissecting; however, considering it is a coming-of-age story, that shouldn’t be too shocking—symbolism in coming-of-age stories are fairly common. However, don’t let the symbolism scare anyone away from picking up this book, a big plus in this story is one doesn’t have to be a detail oriented reader to catch at least a few of the more domineering images. I’m not sure my amateurish review will give due credit to the array of symbols that are apparent throughout this novel, nor do I want to spend the time writing in-depth about the symbolism in this book; therefore, I will just give a “surface-scratching” review, which will have to suffice.
The backdrop for this story is Sylvan, South Carolina in 1964, during the heat of the Civil Right’s Movement. Lily Owens lives under the neglectful, abusive rule of her father and is haunted daily by the memory of her mother’s death. She is cared for by her nanny Rosaleen, an African-American who gets arrested after trying to register to vote. Lily breaks Rosaleen out of prison and runs to the only place she could think of, Tiburon, South Carolina, in order to search for answers about her mother. She is taken in by an unconventional threesome of African American sisters who run a bee farm which proves to be a sanctuary for Lily. As Lily unfolds the mysteries about her mother, what was once a sanctuary becomes hallowed ground as she realizes how fate (AKA The Black Madonna) brought her to the trio of sisters who know the secrets of Lily’s mother’s history.
The author did a wonderful job creating well-rounded, likable characters. Some of my issues with this book are the stereotypes—neglected white, southern children and proud, law abiding black folk. I’m not going to get into them here, but they are fairly obvious if one ventures to read this book. I’m not agreeing or disagreeing with these stereotypes, I just think Monk could have pushed past these stereotypes and created a book that was a bit more original in that particular venue. Overall, I thought this book was touching and insightful. A good read that I enjoyed quite a bit. One of my favorite parts of the book was looking forward to the epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter—I loved those tidbits of information about bees (*gasp* what a geek!!). I’ll admit I was a little hesitant to read this book, expecting some type of Ya Ya/Traveling Pants fiasco. I was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t play out as my pre-conceived notions thought it would.