Wednesday, March 4, 2009

More Reviews

A couple more book reviews for some of my recent reads.

Tallgrass - Sandra Dallas

My agent introduced me to this gem of a novel (Sandra Dallas is also one of her clients) and I'll be forever grateful. It's lyrical, honest, and memorable. I fell in love with the characters, and look forward to reading more of Sandra's work.

Set in Colorado in the middle of World War II, Tallgrass explores the implications of a national tragedy that occurred while all eyes were directed overseas. When a Japanese internment camp is constructed outside of her small town, Rennie Stroud doesn't know what to think. But the murder of a young girl turns her world upside down, and suddenly racial tensions run dangerously high. This coming-of-age story has something for everyone.

The Secret Life of Bees - Sue Monk Kidd

This book has been on my to-read list for a very long time and I finally had the mixed pleasure of picking it up. Though I loved the prose and was riveted by the story, there were some elements that left me scratching my head...

Bees tells the story of Lily Owens, a young woman who lives with her abusive father after her mother is killed. When her surrogate mom (a black housekeeper named Rosaleen) insults a group of white men in their racially divided town, Lily grabs Rosaleen and skips town. The two women find themselves in the care of three beekeeping sisters, black women who readily take the fugitives in and give them a home like none they've ever experienced.

Though I liked this story and was riveted by the lovely prose, a few things prevented me from fully immersing myself in the book. First of all, I found Lily's struggle with her past to be almost annoyingly volatile. She pendulum-swung from acceptance to denial and forgiveness to vengeance within the span of a paragraph. And though I realize these sorts of emotions are rather normal in tragic circumstances, after an entire chapter of hot and cold, back and forth, I was just plain sick of reading about it. Also, the whole "divine female power" thing was... well... odd. Themes of "You have to find a mother inside of yourself," and "I am enough," permeated the book. Essentially, find the god in yourself and you'll never need for anything again. Mix that in with some strange Mary, Mother of God pagan-ish rituals and you get the bizarre spirituality of Bees. A good read, don't get me wrong, just... weird at times. If you're not into an entire scene dedicated to watching a group of women rub down a wooden statue with honey, you might want to skip Bees.


  1. Nicole,
    Thanks for a refreshingly honest review. I'm glad I did not read the book. I saw the movie and enjoyed it and sort of overlooked the "Mary thing" since the acting was very good. If they had gone into the spirituality in the movie like they did the book I'm sure I would not have liked the movie as well. This is one case where I am glad that the screenplay bore little resemblance to what you say the book was like!

  2. I haven't seen the movie yet, but now that I've read the book I think I have to. Besides, I think Dakota Fanning is the cutest thing. ;)

    As for the review, I feel a bit snooty finding fault with such a well-known and well-loved book. And it is good! It's just... I don't know... not my cup of tea. Thanks for understanding.

  3. Thank goodness someone else shares my opinion of "Bees"! It seemed like everyone loved it except me. Your review is dead on. :)
    -Angela VG

  4. I knew we had lots in common, Angela. ;) What are you reading right now???