Author to reveal secrets behind ‘Life of Bees’Written by Whitney Meschke | | firstname.lastname@example.org
In homecoming season, an author whose novels have tread that theme will speak in Toledo-Lucas County Public Library’s Authors! Authors! series.
Sue Monk Kidd said it was only after she started writing ”The Mermaid Chair” that she realized that book’s connection with her earlier blockbuster, ”The Secret Life of Bees.”
”‘Bees’ is about a young girl searching for a home,” she said from her Charleston, S.C., home. ”In ‘Mermaid,’ it’s more metaphoric, with the character looking for a way to come home to herself.”
In ”Bees,” a white girl looks for the truth about her mother during the days of the American civil rights movement. Her search leads her to her mother’s foster family — three beekeeping black women — and their spiritual mother, the Black Madonna.
In ”Mermaid,” a married woman goes to care for her mother and finds herself drawn to a monk.
”It’s about a woman’s journey at midlife,” Kidd said. ”It’s primarily about a very profound redefinition of her life and her marriage, with her coming to a place in herself, a place of self-belonging.”
At 57, Kidd also has come into her own. She started her career with a nursing degree and freelance writing.
She became an editor to Guideposts magazine and published a collection of spiritual anecdotes and two memoirs before turning her sights to fiction.
”Bees,” Kidd’s debut novel, has sold more than four million copies and spent more than 100 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller lists since publication in 2002. ”The Mermaid Chair,” released in the spring, has done similar duty, with 25 weeks and counting on the hardcover list.
Success is surprising for a first novel, and even Kidd finds herself hard-pressed to explain it.
”I think it has something to do with climate in our country of wanting to believe in the power of love,” she said. ”Such universal, timeless themes pull at us.”
Others have given her another viewpoint.
”Readers who send letters, they say they love the Black Madonna,” Kidd said. ”I think the appeal there is that it’s a way of understanding the sacred through that image that sort of shatters our stereotypes of what’s sacred. And there’s the beauty of the feminine and the bond of women. People really respond to that.”
Not surprisingly for a book set in the South in the 1960s, race relations play a large role in ”Bees.”
”I deliberately wanted it to be diverse, to look at that complex knot of separation and these great chasms we create,” she said. ”I think there’s a great redemptive or healing quality to creating empathy.”
Kidd will speak about her life as a writer at 7 p.m. Oct. 24 at Stranahan Theater Great Hall, 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd. The event also allows the audience to ask questions and have books signed.
Tickets are $10; student discounts are available. Tickets may be purchased at any library branch. More information is available by calling (419) 259-5266.