Good day, ya'all!
I have to say that I am a fan of good Southern writers, like Carson McCullers ("The Heart is a Lonely Hunter") and Harper Lee ( "To Kill A Mockingbird"), and Wm Faulkner ("The Unvanquished"). I've even enjoyed a tale or two by Pat Conroy, though I am somewhat loath to admit it.
But I have to say that Sue Monk Kidd's "The Secret Life of Bees" took me completely by surprise, as I'd not thought of Kidd as a Southern writer, really. I read "Mermaid Chair" and enjoyed it, but thought of it as literary fiction married to chick lit.
Though "Secret Life of Bees" starts slowly and is difficult to read (mainly because I find it hard to read about child abuse and racism), I found myself pressing on, wanting to know more about Lily and being surprised by my joy each time she did something right, though she was frightened and young. The book takes place during the summer of 1964, which was a time of great racial unrest, a time when America was struggling with itself socially. Once Lily encounters the bee-keeping calendar sisters and begins growing and learning through their wise mentorship, the story begins to soar, and ther reader falls in love with the sisters and their awesome Black Madonna. This book moved me in exactly the same way that I was moved after reading "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter." Really fine coming-of-age stories resonate with older readers because they are timeless and completely honest in their emotional mileau. Lily's struggle and ultimate triumph will resonate with me for the rest of my life. What a brilliant author Kidd is, to slowly mesmerize the reader and weave her way into his or her heart. I plan to add her to my list of "read everything this author has written."