The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Set in South Carolina during the Civil Rights Movement, The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd is a heartwarming coming-of-age story. The protagonist is Lily Owens, a white teenager who killed her mother in a gun accident as a toddler. Left with an abusive father, Lily is haunted by the guilt-ridden memory of her mother’s death. Lily eventually flees her father’s cruelty in pursuit of details about her deceased mother’s life. She is welcomed by a trio of eccentric black sisters who introduce her to the art of beekeeping, an arcane religion, and the maternal influence that she desired throughout her childhood.
Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
Educated: A Memoir, tells the story of Tara Westover, a woman who grew up in a family of survivalists isolated from society. Her father didn’t believe in conventional education; however, Tara was inspired to educate herself, and her dedication to learning empowered her to go to college and eventually earn a PhD at the University of Cambridge. Educated expands on Tara’s difficult childhood and her struggle to shape her own ideas after growing up with a father that decided her views for her. This book showcases Tara’s perseverance in receiving an education, despite extreme obstacles, and her process of learning. As Tara says, “An education is not so much about making a living as making a person.” I loved reading Tara’s story and was enthralled by her journey of self-discovery. No matter one’s upbringing, he or she can learn from Tara’s words and be inspired by her ability to overcome adversity. Not only does this novel teach valuable lessons, but it’s also an extremely fascinating story that’s difficult to put down.
The Remains of The Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
The 1989 Man Booker Prize winning philosophic diary and reflection of a butler (Stevens) who is socialized by his father’s expectations of stoicism, imperturbability, and indefatigability, The Remains of the Day explores themes of duty, honor, and purpose – and whether these notions should ever be flexible. As Stevens adjusts to the seemingly unrefined views of the new owner of Darlington Hall – an American with a penchant for “banter” – we follow our protagonist through his struggle to find meaning in his life when he is no longer appreciated for the sophistication and prescience he has worked painstakingly to cultivate. Through Stevens’s reflections on his career, former employer, and father’s persistence, we are exposed to the necessity of confidentiality when serving in the houses of important politicians and questions of love and loyalty. Oh yeah, and there’s a sort of romance plot in there too: not that our main character, who is woefully repressed, ever gives us much hope for a beautiful ending.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáen
Frankly, it’d be far too difficult to choose which novel is my all-time favorite; one of my many favorites, though, is a novel entitled Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, written by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. The book is a beautiful portrayal of certain struggles of adolescence. The story takes place in El Paso, Texas about thirty years ago. The novel revolves around two teenage boys of Mexican descent, Aristotle and Dante. The boys meet at the pool one day and immediately become close friends. Together, the two boys deal with issues of insecurity and belonging in relation to topics such as race and sexuality.