>Review: The Secret Life of Bees


The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd: Book Cover

Product Details

  • Pub. Date: January 2003
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Format: Paperback , 336pp


“The bees came the summer of 1964, the summer I turned fourteen and my life went spinning off into a whole new orbit, and I mean whole new orbit. Looking back on it now, I want to say the bees were sent to me. I want to say they showed up like the angel Gabriel appearing to the Virgin Mary, setting events in motion I could never have guessed.” So begins the story of Lily Melissa Owens, a plucky girl, rich in humor despite heart wrenching circumstances. Living on a peach farm in South Carolina with her harsh, unyielding father, her entire life has been shaped around one devastating, though blurred, memory- the afternoon her mother was killed. Four at the time, she remembers innocently picking up the gun. And, she has her father’s eyewitness account of the gun firing. People remind her it was an accident, yet she’s inhabited by a torturous guilt. Lily’s only real companion is Rosaleen, a tender, but fierce-hearted black woman who cooks, cleans and acts as her “stand-in mother.”
South Carolina in 1964 is a place and time of seething racial divides. When violence explodes one summer afternoon, and Rosaleen is arrested and beaten, Lily is desperate, not only to save Rosaleen, but to flee a life she can no longer endure. Calling upon her colorful wits and uncommon daring, she breaks Rosaleen out of jail and the two of them take off, runaway-fugitives conjoined in an escape that quickly turns into Lily’s quest for the truth about her mother’s life.
Following a trail left ten years earlier, Lily and Rosaleen end up in the home of three bee-keeping sisters. No ordinary women, the sisters revere a Black Madonna and tend a unique brand of female spirituality that reaches back to the time of slavery. As Lily’s life becomes deeply entwined with theirs, she is irrevocably altered. In a mesmerizing world of bees and honey, amid the strength and power of wise women, Lily journeys through painful secrets and shattering betrayals, finding her way to the single thing her heart longs for most.

Initial Response: 

I loved this book.  It made me think of the civil rights times in a completely new way.  Not only that but this coming of age book touched on a lot of sensitive subjects in a tactful way.  This is an outstanding book.  It truly reminds me of many of the Oprah picks.  I am surprised we have not seen this book there.

My Review:

Outstanding coming of age book.  Lily is a young girl who has seen her share of difficult times.  She knows her mother died when is was young but she is unclear of the circumstances.  She lives with her father T. Ray, who is a hard man, and does not seem to understand what Lily needs.  There is also the house attendant,  Rosaleen. Once the civil rights laws have been passed Lily is going with Rosaleen into town to register her to vote but they run into trouble. Lily helps Rosaleen to escape jail (hospital at the time) and follow the only clue Lily has about her mother and what may have happened.  This journey takes them to the pink home of August, May and June.  Lily learns a lot about bee keeping and about life.  It takes Lily a long time to confront August about her mother and when she does she learns things she never wanted to believe were true. We also see the frustrations of falling in love with someone of a different color and the challenges it presents.  There is so much emotion in this book everything from love, to mourning, and everything in between.  This book should not be missed.  It is an outstanding read and one that should give everyone a better understanding of what the world was in 1964.


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