Title: The Secret Life of Bees
Author: Sue Monk Kidd
Publisher: Penguin Books
Genre: Historical Fiction, Bildungsroman
First Publication: 2001
Major Characters: Lily Owens, Rosaleen, August Boatwright, June Boatwright, May Boatwright, T. Ray Owens
Setting Place: Sylvan, South Carolina, 1964
Theme: Racism and America in the 1960s, Mothers and Daughters, Religion, Guilt, and Forgiveness
Narrator: First Person from Lily Owens’ Point of View
Book Summary: The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Set in South Carolina in 1964, The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd tells the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. When Lily’s fierce-hearted black “stand-in mother,” Rosaleen, insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily decides to spring them both free.
They escape to Tiburon, South Carolina–a town that holds the secret to her mother’s past. Taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters, Lily is introduced to their mesmerizing world of bees and honey, and the Black Madonna.
This is a remarkable novel about divine female power, a story women will share and pass on to their daughters for years to come.
The book, The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, is also available on Audible. It’s narrated by Jenna Lamia.
Book Review: The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd was a funny and sweet story mixed with the serious topic of the Civil Rights Agreement of the 1960s in USA. The protagonist, Lily, is such a lovable character because she’s a child and perceives the world as the 14-year-old she is, but at the same time she goes through so many brutal things that your heart bleeds for her.
Fourteen year old, Lily Owens has only ever wanted to be loved by her parents. With a less than loving father, it seems the only hope she will have is to cling to the memory of her deceased mother in hopes that she had loved Lily before her death. When Lily’s father T. Ray, tells her that her mother left her behind when she was younger, that is all the excuse she needs to run away from him and his terrible and hurtful lies.
“Someone who thinks death is the scariest thing doesn’t know a thing about life.”
Set in the 1960s, during the Civil Rights Movement, Rosaleen, the housekeeper, is now allowed to vote. Unfortunately on her way to town, she finds herself in jail. Lily cannot leave her behind to be beaten, or worse killed, by the men that put her in there, so she devises a plan to break her out and bring her along on her new adventure to find out more about her mother.
When they reach Tiburon, South Carolina, they meet the Boatwright family. The three African-American sisters, August, June, and May all live in a pink house and keep bees. They sell the honey around town and pray to Our Lady of Chains. Needless to say, the Boatwright sisters are unique in every way and as they welcome Lily and Rosaleen into their lives, Lily begins to feel as if she never wants to leave.
“If you need something from somebody always give that person a way to hand it to you.”
She knew from a picture of the Black Madonna that she found in her mother’s belongings that matched the same picture on the honey jars that August sold around town, that she was in the exact spot she needed to be to find out more about her mother. But Lily was keeping secrets. She had lied to everyone that was quickly becoming important to her about why she was there. Only the truth would produce the raw facts about everything she has always wondered about.
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd was a heart-warming story about people learning the meaning of love and how to love. I really enjoyed the strong, independent, female characters and watching them learn and grow the more I read. The story has a nice flow and was enjoyable throughout, and as a bonus, I did learn some interesting facts about bees!