Wednesday, January 30, 2008


There’s this little herb/book/curio shop tucked away in one of those Houston neighborhoods that used to be residential and now isn’t. I try to drop in at least once a month, inevitably spending money I don’t really have, because I have an irrational fear that if I don't buy anything, the store will immediately go out of business and it will be All My Fault.

A number of independent Houston-area retailers have gone under in the past few years, and having been a patron of most of them, it's hard not to feel personally responsible. ("If only I'd purchased one more scented candle/poetry chapbook/Tom of Finland T-shirt/coffin-shaped ashtray, then Crossroads/Inklings/Lobo/Karmic Fortune would still be around today!")

Anyway, back to the present. The overriding theme of this particular shop is the Divine Feminine, with special emphasis on female-empowered Christianity. Mary Magdalene, la Virgen de Guadalupe and the Black Madonna reign supreme among the merchandise, with a fair share of shelf space given over to other popular female deities like Kwan Yin and Yemaya. If you've ever read Bell, Book and Murder by Rosemary Edghill, you'll understand when I say it's like a real-time version of Chanter's Revel.

On this particular day, browsing through their Fiction section, I happened upon a copy of Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees. I remembered hearing that the book was supposed to be very good, and I hadn't read an actual novel in months, so I figured what the hey and ferried it up to the front counter.

"Have you read this before?" the sales clerk asked as I dug out my debit card. I admitted that no, I hadn't, and she gushed, "Oh, it's a wonderful book!"

"Great!" I said, happy about the glowing recommendation.

"It's such a Southern story," she continued. "You need to go home, put on some Jazz and drink a mint julep before you start reading it."

I told her that sounded like a good idea, and she launched into a comprehensive but thankfully non-spoiling plot synopsis. "This book made me cry," she sighed, reminiscing on the matricidal themes of the first chapter. "It'll make you cry, too. Especially if you have Mom issues. I have bad Mom issues. Really bad. So this book really got to me. Do you have Mom issues?"

"Um... no, I don't," I said, startled by the Freudian ambush. "My mother's actually pretty cool."

"Oh... I see." She replied, visibly disappointed. "That's great. Really great."

Was she jealous of my issue-free maternal relationship? Resentful? Embarrassed that she'd casually tossed out her own issues, which promptly bounced off me and back at her? No clue. But leaving the shop, I couldn't shake the vague feeling that I'd been kicked out of the Sisterhood.


Anonymous said...

I think that book is overrated, but you might have just hit upon why it's so popular: mommy issues.

By the way, I reviewed this book on my blog. But be warned: I don't give away the ending or other important plot twists, but it might still be something of a spoiler.

Evn said...

Excellent review! And I finished the book a couple of days ago, so no worries.

It was certainly not a terrible book, although you're right--there was some general wonkiness in terms of character development. All that said, I loved August and the Black Madonna Honey, and I'm totally going to bawl when I see the movie (coming out next year, starring Dakota Fanning).