The Secret Life of Bees – Review


The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Age: YA

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd is a very heartfelt and touching coming of age story centered around fourteen year old Lily Owens in 1964 South Carolina.  When Lily walks into town with her strong-willed black “stand-in mother” Rosaleen, a series of events unravel changing Lily’s and Rosaleen’s life. When Rosaleen stands up to the three of the worst racists in the town on her way to register to vote, Rosaleen is arrested while Lily is sent home to her abusive father. Deciding that their lives need a change, Lily manages to run-away with Rosaleen and head to the Tiburon, South Carolina, where Lily hopes to learn more about her mother. There is a touching line shortly before Lily runs away. When returning home from jail, waiting for her father, she sees that the bees she had been collecting in a glass jar had finally flown away, they took back their freedom. Looking at this empty jar, Lily thinks to herself,

‘You could say I’d never had a true religious moment, the kind where you know yourself spoken to by a voice that seems other than yourself, spoken to so genuinely you see the words shining on trees and clouds. But I had such a moment right then, standing in my own ordinary room. I heard a voice say, Lily Melissa Owens, your jar is open.” (p41)

All Lily has of her mother is a blurred memory of the day she died, a picture of her mother, and a picture of a black Mary with Tiburon, S.C. written on the back. As fate would have it, Lily and Rosaleen move in with three eccentric and friendly black beekeeping sisters, makers of the Black Madonna Honey that adorns a label of the black Mary exactly like the one Lily found with her mother’s belongings.

Kidd had a strong variety of themes running through the novel; social commentary on racism in the south, religious themes from the slightly unorthodox religious views of the Daughter’s of Mary group, and also there are themes of love, and of forgiveness. Kidd manages to weave all these themes together to create a story that any reader can relate to. Each chapter begins with a short sentence on bees, their social life and the entire bee structure, how they work, how they stay together. Kidd manages to weave in each commentary on bee into the chapter. The story is about Lily coming of age and learning about her mother, so Lily gets the most attention in the novel. The supporting characters are set as one-dimensional backdrops to Lily’s acceptance of herself and her realizations about life and how she is living her life. On some level it works, because the story is about Lily’s transformation, not about June or August, or even Rosaleen. Other times, it doesn’t work because the supporting characters are set up to be eccentric, strong-willed and should have had more of a force in the book than they did. Even Rosaleen loses most of her presence in the novel. Rosaleen’s character is pretty much neglected once the Boatwright sisters come into the picture. Lily is constantly looking for a mother figure, and she transferred that role from Rosaleen to August almost instantly moving into the house.

There is a high demand for this title at my library, and it seems we can never keep a copy on the shelf. I’m wondering if other places are having this same issue. To do my part, I’d like to giveaway my copy of this book. If you are interested in receiving this title, simply leave a comment on this post, or any following post by Sunday August 24th, and I’ll hold a raffle to choose the winner. You’ll get one entry for each comment and an extra entry if you blog about this giveaway on your blog/website.


The Secret Life of Bees
by Sue Monk Kidd
Penguin Group, 2002
ISBN 0142001740
302 pages

Find this book at your local library

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

17 responses to “The Secret Life of Bees – Review

  1. I’d like to read this book. I’ll include you when I do a giveaway post, as well. I’ve heard a lot about this book and I’ve definitely wanted to read it for a while now. Thanks!

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  3. Thanks for the giveaway! I’ve heard a lot of good things about this book and have been wanting to check it out. Thanks!

  4. This is such a wonderful book. I rented it from the library, but would love a copy of my own.

  5. Hi! I’d like to win this book. 🙂 I’ve linked back to this post in my blog too. Thank you.

  6. This sounds like a great book! I would love to read it!

  7. I read and thoroughly enjoyed this novel, but let my copy get away from me. It’s one I’d like to re-read, and have to pass along to my granddaughter. Thanks for the giveaway opportunity.

  8. I would love to win (and read) a copy of this book! 🙂

  9. I’d love to read this and share it with my family.

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  11. Thanks for the contest. I’ve wanted to read this book for a while!

  12. I’ve had trouble getting this book from my library, too! I’d love to win a copy. Thank you for the chance.

  13. please enter me if includes international. thanks

  14. I’ve had this book on my to-read list for awhile. Please enter me in the giveaway!

  15. i really really hope i win this book! i want to read it sooo bad it’s been on my tbr list forEVER i’ve heard so darn much about it and how great it is but still haven’t even gotten around to buying it, i hope i win!! *fingers crossed* (hehehe i thought it was really funny that they mentioned this book in the bee movie hehe)

  16. I’ve heard so much about this book. Thanks for doing the giveaway!

  17. Pingback: NY Times Bestsellers « The Novel World

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