I finished two fiction books this month, which seems like a grand accomplishment considering all that divides my time. Atonement, by Ian McEwan, was chosen by a friend for our book club. It has three distinct sections, plus an epilogue, and most reviewers on Amazon had pretty strong feelings about which section they preferred.
Even though the story seemed pretty typical – would be lovers torn apart by circumstances out of their control – McEwan’s writing was smooth and poetic and beautiful enough to keep me attached to the story, particularly in the first section. His descriptions of movements, interactions, and setting were stunning. While on the airplane heading to our white water rafting trip, I read a certain passage that took place in the dark corners of a home library, and let’s just say I needed a cold glass of water to bring down the heat after that one.
I wasn’t a big fan of how the ending was written, but I understood the usefulness of it. I would have just preferred something more challenging for the writer. It seemed too easy. But then again, I’m a big critic of story endings because i struggle with them so much myself.
Atonement will make you ache for what can’t be taken back. It will make you angry for all the seemingly minute events in your life that you wish you could change, had you known what lied ahead. But that’s okay, go ahead and read it anyway. It will be a good lesson on the sovereignty of God.
I loved loved loved The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd. I’m discovering that I love first person stories written from the perspective of a child (like Davita’s Harp), and I love coming-of-age stories. Lily is fourteen, and she lives in the south during the late 1950’s (or maybe the early 60’s? There was talk of voting for President Johnson). She is motherless and lives with a father so unfatherly she calls him by his first name, and she worries she is responsible for her mother’s death. Circumstances prompt her to run away with her black servant, the woman hired to raise her after her mother died, and they find themselves in a little corner of heaven just a few hours away, at the home of three black, bee-keeping sisters.
Each chapter begins with an epigraph on the life or characteristics of bees that foreshadow the coming plot. I’m not sure which was more fascinating to me – the resemblance of bee communities to human society, or the ability of the author to weave a story in and through and around the secret life of bees. Those who keep bees (and you know who you are) and those who are writing memoirs with a nature theme (and you know who you are) will enjoy this book. The author creates a little hive, a put-together family with a queen, and we watch and wonder whether it will survive the heat, the cold, and the stress.
The Secret Life of Bees is a definite Must Read for the summer.