"The maiden Persephone, is picking flowers in a meadow when a hole opens up in the earth and up charges Hades, lord of the dead, who abducts Persephone into the underworld. Unable to find her daughter, Demeter, the great earth Goddess of grain, harvest and fertility, lights a torch and scours the earth. After nine futile days of searching, Demeter is approached by Hecate, the quintessential old crone and Goddess of the crossroads and the dark moon, who explains that her daughter has been abducted.
In a rage and too dejected to keep up her divine duties, Demeter lets the crops wither and the earth becomes a wasteland. She disguises herself as an old woman and travels to the town of Eleusis, where she sits beside a well in despair. Zeus tries to talk some sense into her. Hades will make a nice son-in-law, he says. She needs to lighten up and let the crops grow. Demeter will not budge.
The earth becomes so desolate Zeus finally gives up and orders Persephone returned to her mother. As Persephone prepares to leave, however, she unwittingly swallows some pomegranate seeds, which ensures her return to the underworld for a third of each year.Mother and daughter are reunited on the first day of spring... When Demeter learns about the fateful pomegranate, her joy is tempered, but she stops her mourning and allows the earth to flourish again. After all, her daughter is back. Not the same innocent girl who tripped through the meadow picking flowers, but a woman transfigured by her experience.”
When I was in younger, my mom decided it would be a good idea to put me in Greek school. She would drive me to the Greek Orthodox church a few towns over and pick me up after a few hours of intense Helenic immersion. We had language classes, history classes and even dance classes. I learned the Greek national anthem. I performed in plays and dance recitals. It was very intense. But I loved it. I felt special (and no M, not eat the paste special) because I was the only one of my siblings to go to Greek school. It was a really nice way to connect with my dad and learn more about his country and culture. And it doesn't hurt that my dad still boasts (more than 10 years later) that I won $50 for being the best student in my class.
The best history lessons were the ones that included Greek mythology. One of my favorite myths was about Persephone. It's a basic tale about "empty nest" syndrome. But instead of calling Persephone's phone incessantly and sending text messages that say, "are u ok? call home" (like my mom), Demeter (P's mom) is so distraught over her missing daughter that she falls behind on all her responsibilities and basically lets nature go to shit. I can't even imagine what kind of state the world would be if my my mom had mythical powers....*shudder*
I have to be honest though, this book was not one of my favorites. Kidd is in her fifties and she's going on and on about how she's now an old woman, suffering through menopause. She makes these statements about losing her womanhood, accepting that death is right around the corner, etc. Unfortunately, I just could not relate to this older woman coming-of-age situation. I was expecting a fun tale about a mother and daughter gallivanting around Europe, getting into fun trouble and good-natured misadventures (kind of like what happens when my sisters and I go away with our mom). But, I guess I was wrong.
I know I'm not in my fifties, and I have no idea what it feels like to go through menopause and what it might do to your psyche in regards to your "womanhood", but I would hope that it didn't bring about this: take life too seriously, severe introspection that Kidd experienced at the time. I am in no way trying to diminish her journey. I just can't really understand it.
It was easier to relate to her daughter Ann. Yes, there were some moments where I felt stifled by both her and Kidd's uber-feminism (do we have to question everything?) but I was definitely able to enjoy/understand her twenty-something angst more.
All that being said, I did enjoy many parts of the book. One in particular is a moment where Kidd experiences an epiphany concerning her and Ann's paralleled self-discovery and sums it up with this: "Ann is new potential in search of ripening and I am ripening in search of new potential." I can dig this idea of a natural shift occurring once you reach a certain age. A cyclical rite of passage if you will.
I think that if you are looking for a book you can share with your mom, and are willing to overcome Kidd's (for lack of a better word) preachy moments, you might learn something new that could help you understand each other a little better, you know, woman to woman.
P.S. I also liked the fact that Kidd talks about her creative process while writing Secret Life of Bees. From a writer's (I use that term loosely) point of view, I appreciated that she also deals with writer's block and feelings of inadequacy and doubt, even with all her success. Gives a fledgling scribe some hope.