I've read Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees and absolutely loved it. I enjoyed her story telling and suspected that when writing about her own life it would only be done in the best of ways. See, often enough when there are memoirs out and about I am bored to tears, but only if the memoir is written by someone who labels themselves a writer do I really seem to enjoy the narrative. It's not some snide prejudice against people who write their own memoirs who are not writers by trade it's just that there is more of a story-like feel to the memoir when it's written by someone who can paint pictures with words.
This is a coming of age story as much as it is one of symbolism, female religious figures, and travel. Ann is stepping into the real world after graduating college and facing her first real life struggle while Sue is turning fifty and recognizing signs in her body that she is getting older. Besides this it is the relationship between mother and daughter as it has changed over the years, drifted apart, and come back together. There is obvious symbolism in just about everything (which for some readers is a fault of the book as the authors sometimes get a little carried away by how much symbolism they always seem to see) and a reflection religious stories in what they themselves are experiencing.
Let's start with Ann. Ann just graduated college and is in a depressed slump as she tries to figure out what to do with her life. She thought she knew that her life was destined to study Greek history at a specific University but was not accepted. Now she's lost. On one hand, I completely understand what Ann was feeling. When I graduated college I went through a similar slump because I had no clue what I was to do next. For all my life the next thing was school and suddenly I was out of school for the first time in my life and I had no clue what I wanted out of my future. It was overwhelming and depressing. However, unlike Ann, I ended up working as a janitor and then a gas station attendant while I tried to figure my life out. While Ann was feeling depressed and lost she was cruising around Greece and Turkey. So, while on one hand I understood her depression... on the other I felt that she was being a little self absorbed. She was on vacation in another country and moping around most of the time rather than thinking how lucky she was to be in Greece again and able to have that opportunity! So... I feel for her and understand where she's coming from but only to an extent because in the grand scheme of things she didn't have things half bad.
Then there's Sue who is approaching her fiftieth birthday and realizing her age. I don't find fifty to be "old" but I assume turning fifty is another story (just as I am slightly panicked about turning thirty in a few years). Besides the realization that her body is changing she is also realizing that there is a distance between herself and her daughter. Her daughter is no longer a child but an adult and the relationship they once had has changed. I think most mothers and daughters go through this type of experience with one another and it hit close to home. Close enough that I would like to send this book to my mother because I think she'll just get it.
Besides discussing her changing body and healthy, Sue also over analyzes a lot and while at times it's wonderful, it sometimes gets a little boring as it seems anything will set her off. As I mentioned above, it seems some readers really disliked this aspect of the book.
There is a lot of detail about the different Mary's of the world, something that's near and dear to this mother and daughter duo and familiar to anyone who has read Sue's book The Secret Life of Bees. And besides all of this, the religious aspect, the relationship between them, and much more there is also the talk of writing. While some people dislike the symbolism I, at times, felt that Sue was pitching her other books to me. At first I really enjoyed hearing about her writing but the constant deep thoughts about symbolism and the likes did get a little tiring. Mind you, I love The Secret Life of Bees.
By the end of the book I did feel refreshed so please, despite my complaints do not assume I hated the book. I was glad to see how the chapter finally closed and a little bit jealous. I love to write, I do consider myself a writer, but boy do I wish I could live in a situation where I didn't have to work and could instead devote my life to writing! Or traveling overseas. Whichever.
It also reminded me so much of my relationship with my mother and I do intend on sending her a copy of this book, if only to hear what she thinks.