This is a lovely tale. In reading it is easy to imagine an A-list director seizing on the ample imagery to the crescendos of a John Williams orchestration. It tells of Lily, a South Carolina 14 year old. She lives, unhappily, with her crusty father T. Ray and Rosaleen, the woman who raised her after her mother died when Lily was 4. It is a coming of age tale set against the civil rights issues of the early 60’s. It is certainly no coincidence that Lily (as in white) spends most of the book in the company of earth-mother black people. Rosaleen attempts to register to vote and winds up in jail. Lily manages to spring her. Lily has always maintained fantasies about her dead mother, and wants to find out more about her. She uses clues found in materials left by her mother and winds up in another South Carolina town, in the home of the Calendar Sisters (August, June and May). There she learns about bee-keeping and mothering. There are mothering images aplenty here. The calendar sisters have evolved a personal religion around Mary, using a masthead image of the Virgin as an icon. Each chapter begins with a quote about bees. Each of these quotes tells of the substance of the following chapter. Lily learns the truth about her mother, becomes aware of her new sexuality, and grows up.
There are flaws here as well as a richness of imagery. The good people (Rosalee and August in particular) are far too perfect, and we are expected to believe that Lily has no visceral hesitation or consciousness about the social implications about her attraction to Zach. It is a very goopy book. That said, I enjoyed it and got teary at the expected places. It will make a very lush and goopy movie. I could well-envision the cinematography and rousing score. It could go either way, though, and if underfinanced could wind up as a chick-flick TV-movie.