The Secret Life of Bees a novel by Sue Monk Kidd

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This is the story of Lily Owens who was born in 1950, as told by her in 1964, in South Carolina. The Civil Rights Act is just passing, Lyndon Johnson is running for President, and some blacks are voting for the first time.

Lily’s mother died when she was 4 years old and she was raised Rosaleen, a black stand-in mother. Rosaleen has gotten in trouble and arrested trying to vote. After another terrible fight with T.Ray Lily decides to run away for good, but first she has to get Rosaleen, who was beaten up in jail and is in the hospital under guard.  She finds a way to help Rosaleen escape and they both escape to Tiburon, South Carolina, a town that holds the secret of her mother past. She chose this town to run to because of a picture of a Black Madonna that had the name of Tiburon on the back. The picture was something her mother had in her things and her choice to go to the city was a random, she thought.

They find a place to stay in Tiburon at a honey farm with May, June and August, black beekeeping sisters, who not only open their arms to help them but share their special affinity for the world of bees and honey and the Black Madonna. Lily learns about bees and even finds a boyfriend.

This novel has a beauty of language that allows you to feel the time and place as well as the characters.  Lily is white and even though the people she draws close to are black, we see them through Lily’s eyes and through her heart.

The bees add to the story of a countryside that seems alive and we almost feel the heat of the day and the sounds of the night.

We find connection with Lily’s secret life and feelings. Even some of the expected moody adolescent girl concerns and the pain she feels for the loss of her mother are feelings we share.

August is the oldest of the sisters and she helps Lily understand herself and to “find the mother in herself”.

What Does the Secret Life of Bees tell us about Christianity See short essay on this subject in Daily Comments section or click on title.

Quotes

“If you need something from somebody always give that person a way to hand it to you.” 

“Knowing can be a curse on a person's life. I'd traded in a pack of lies for a pack of truth, and I didn't know which one was heavier. Which one took the most strength to carry around? It was a ridiculous question, though, because once you know the truth, you can't ever go back and pick up your suitcase of lies. Heavier or not, the truth is yours now.” 


“It is the peculiar nature of the world to go on spinning no matter what sort of heartbreak is happening.”

 “Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can't remember who we are or why we're here.”