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The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd "explores a young girl's search for the truth about her mother; her courage to tear down racial barriers; and her joy as she claims her place within a community of women." If you like The Secret Life of Bees, you may also like these suggestions:
The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
"Feisty Marietta Greer changes her name to "Taylor'' when her car runs out of gas in Taylorville, Ill. By the time she reaches Oklahoma, this strong-willed young Kentucky native with a quick tongue and an open mind is catapulted into a surprising new life. Taylor leaves home in a beat-up '55 Volkswagen bug, on her way to nowhere in particular, savoring her freedom. But when a forlorn Cherokee woman drops a baby in Taylor's passenger seat and asks her to take it, she does. (Publishers Weekly)
Clover by Dori Sanders
"After her father dies within hours of being married to a white woman, a ten-year-old black girl learns with her new mother to overcome grief and to adjust to a new place in their rural black South Carolina community."
The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells
When theatre director Siddalee Walker inadvertently reveals some of the less-savory facts of her Louisiana childhood to the New York Times, the article brands her mother, Vivi, a "tap-dancing child abuser." Vivi virtually disowns Sidda, but the Ya-Yas sashay in and conspire to bring everybody back together. (Catalog Summary)
Evensong by Gail Godwin
There's not much hope and the poor are getting poorer in the small town of High Balsam--which makes things hard for Margaret Bonner, pastor of the local Episcopal church. But then three strangers come to town, and her life really gets complicated.
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
Folksy and fresh, endearing and affecting, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is the now-classic novel of two women in the 1980s: of gray-headed Mrs. Threadgoode telling her life story to Evelyn, who is in the sad slump of middle age. The tale she tells is also of two women--of the irrepressibly daredevilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth--who back in the thirties ran a little place in Whistle Stop, Alabama, a Southern kind of Cafe Wobegon offering good barbecue and good coffee and all kinds of love and laughter, even an occasional murder. And as the past unfolds, the present--for Evelyn and for us--will never be quite the same again. . . . (catalog summary)
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
In Jackson, Mississippi, in 1962, there are lines that are not crossed.
With the civil rights movement exploding all around them, three women start a movement of their own, forever changing a town and the way women--black and white, mothers and daughters--view one another.(Catalog summary)
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
A fabulous romp through an imagination by turns ecstatic, cunning, despairing and resilient, this novel is an impressive achievement "a story that will make you believe in God," as one character says. The peripatetic Pi (n the much-taunted Piscine) Patel spends a beguiling boyhood in Pondicherry, India, as the son of a zookeeper. Growing up beside the wild beasts, Pi gathers an encyclopedic knowledge of the animal world. His curious mind also makes the leap from his native Hinduism to Christianity and Islam, all three of which he practices with joyous abandon. In his 16th year, Pi sets sail with his family and some of their menagerie to start a new life in Canada. Halfway to Midway Island, the ship sinks into the Pacific, leaving Pi stranded on a life raft with a hyena, an orangutan, an injured zebra and a 450-pound Bengal
tiger named Richard Parker. After the beast dispatches the others, Pi is left to survive for 227 days with his large feline companion on the 26-foot-long raft, using all his knowledge, wits and faith to keep himself alive. (Publishers Weekly)
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
"...[a] quiet, observant gaze capturing the beauty of simple things, related through wise and thoughtful characters in this case, the Land family from North Dakota. Asthmatic youngster Reuben Land tells the admittedly shaggy-dog story of his older brother Davy, who shoots and kills two violent intruders as they break into the family's home; Davy is convicted but manages to flee. Both the Lands and the law follow in hot pursuit, but the family seems to have support from a higher power - father Jeremiah himself has performed a miracle or two in his lifetime (walking on water, healing the afflicted with his touch, and the like). Biblical allusions abound, and fantastic things happen, such as the patriarch's four-mile tour via tornado. (Marc Kloszewski, Library Journal)
Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas
Set in Depression-era Kansas and made vivid with the narrator's humorous down-home voice, it's a story of loyalty and friendship in a women's quilting circle. Young farm wife Queenie Bean tells about the brief membership of a city girl named Rita, whose boredom with country living and aspirations to be an investigative reporter lead her to unearth secrets in the close-knit group, called the Persian Pickle Club after a coveted paisley print. Queenie's desire to win Rita's friendship (``We were chickens... and Rita was a hummingbird'') clashes with her loyalty to the Pickles when Rita tries to solve the murder of a member's husband, in the process unearthing complicated relationships among the women who meet each week to quilt and read aloud to each other. The result is a simple but endearing story that depicts small-town eccentricities with affection and adds dazzle with some late-breaking surprises. (Publishers Weekly)
Plainsong by Kent Haruf
"A heartstrong story of family and romance, tribulation and tenacity, set on the High Plains east of Denver. In the small town of Holt, Colorado, a high school teacher is confronted with raising his two boys alone after their mother retreats first to the bedroom, then altogether. A teenage girl -- her father long since disappeared, her mother unwilling to have her in the house -- is pregnant, alone herself, with nowhere to go. And out in the country, two brothers, elderly bachelors, work the family homestead, the only world they've ever known. From these unsettled lives emerges a vision of life, and of the town and landscape that bind them together -- their fates somehow overcoming the powerful circumstances of place and station, their confusion, curiosity, dignity and humor intact and resonant." (Catalog Summary)
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman
For years, 12-year-old CeeCee Honeycutt has been the caretaker of her psychotic mother, Camille-the tiara-toting, lipstick-smeared laughingstock of an entire town. But when Camille is hit by a truck and killed, CeeCee is left to fend for herself. To the rescue comes her previously unknown great-aunt from Savannah, Tootie Caldwell, who whirls CeeCee into her world of female friendship, strong women, wacky humor, and good old-fashioned heart. (Catalog summary)
The Summer We Got Saved by Pat Cunningham Devoto.
Tab and Tina, relatives of a founder of Ku Klux Klan, are whisked away to an interracial Civil Rights school one summer. There, they befriend both a black polio patient and the biracial daughter of a Yankee and a Civil Rights leader. Can the girls be saved from the racist traditions of their Alabama family? (Catalog summary)
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Fair and long-legged, independent and articulate, Janie Crawford sets out to be her own person -- no mean feat for a black woman in the '30s. Janie's quest for identity takes her through three marriages and into a journey back to her roots. (catalog summary)
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
The classic concerning the clash of cultures between an African Igbo village and the European colonists. Deceptively simple, it tells a universal story. (One of my favorites!)
Time is a River by Mary Alice Monroe
"While recovering from breast cancer in a remote cabin in North Carolina, Mia Landan finds the journal of Kate Watkins, a 1920s fly fisher, and, inspired by Kate's example, learns to fish and uncovers many secrets around her." (Catalog summary)
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
"A story about a lawyer in a small Alabama town in the 1930s whose defense of a Black man arouses the town's prejudice and hostility."
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
...tells the story of an old man, professor of sociology, Morrie Schwartz, who is dying from ALS. He tells a former student, Mitch Albom, about dying, living and what's important in life. (catalog summary)
Walking Across Egypt by Clyde Edgerton
78-year-old Mattie Rigsby tries to keep her life orderly. When she meets Wesley Benfield, she has to make a choice between friendship and order. A humorous novel about old age and life in the South. (Catalog summary)