Reprint Edition August, 2008
I was a little late coming to this novel, but now that it's been made into a movie starring Queen Latifa and Dakota Fanning I guess a review is still timely. In a world caught up with ever narrower "genrefication" I suppose I'd categorize The Secret Life of Bees as literary women's fiction as opposed to commercial women's fiction (which is what I would call Time Is a River). Reason being, the former spends a little more time on capturing sensations and sunsets, introspection, and follows through on most of the plot lines. There's the de rigueur female bonding, and a love interest, but at least it's of a loftier nature and conversations have less of that slumber party feel.
Still, I found the novel no more than mediocre. Okay, color me sick of female bonding––in fact strictly female anything––which may have affected my reading. The plot was somewhat contrived, but that didn't bother me as a good author, and I believe Kidd qualifies, can make the contrived believable. What bothered me the most was that, about two-thirds of the way through, Kidd seemed to run out of reasons to delay the inevitable climax of Lily revealing to August the secret about her mother (this is not a plot give-away), and threw in what felt to me like "filler", just to make the novel long enough. What happens to Zach (I don't want to give that part away), could have been very effective had the author carried it to the conclusion I expected, but as she wrote it, it felt empty and inconsequential, and certainly not significant enough to have the effect it did on May.
I never read the Sue Monk Kidd short story on which this novel is based, however I'm going to guess this could have worked as a short piece. Perhaps that's why the novel feels stretched like a bit of taffy. All in all, I'd give it a C+ to B-.