What a book! What a tremendous piece of literature that I had not come across until now. I couldn’t recommend this book highly enough, if you haven’t read it, you must do.
Set in 1960s South Carolina, this book is the coming of age story of 14 year old Lily Owens. She is white and her nanny of sorts, Rosaleen is black. When the latter gets into trouble for being vocal about black peoples’ rights and ends up in jail, Lily decides to do the inevitable – leave her abusive father T Ray and escape with Rosaleen. The only place that they know to go to is to August Boatwright’s honey bee farm. This is from the only semblance of Lily’s mother’s life she has, a honey jar label with a black Mother Mary on it.
The honey farm takes these fugitives in and so begins Lily’s journey of self-awareness, love, honey harvesting, religion, and lessons of people reading. The greater part of the book shows the entwining of Lily and Rosaleen’s life with those of the Boatwright sisters – May, June, August. There are many instances of racism but none of them are as horrible as, say, The Bluest Eye. Rather, the distinction between white and black is presented through Lily’s eyes and is a poignant reminder of the differences that are made by man.
The book also has a happy ending. There are times when I thought that once the entire truth about why Lily’s mother was in Tiburon would come out, they would both be maybe sent back to the police or even worse, back to the father. And after all, the father was looking for his daughter in anger. But the book brings a lovely resolution at the end. So for a tender account of love and life and colour, this is one of the most uplifting books I have read. Must read!