The Secret Life of Bees
, written by Sue Monk Kidd, isn't just about bees, though bees are a part of the story. There is a hive of bees in my backyard, so I admit that the title is the first thing that caught my attention. This is the story of Lily Owens and her black nanny, Rosaleen. The story is set in 1964 in Sylvan, South Carolina, on a peach farm, and in Tiburon, South Carolina, at the house of beekeepers.
Each chapter opens with a quote about bees. In each quote is a hint about what is going to happen in the upcoming chapter.
This story opens with fourteen-year-old Lily in her bedroom at night. What seems to be hundreds of bees swarm into her room at night to keep her company and to entertain her. Lily is a motherless girl. Her mom died when she was only four, and her dad, T. Ray, tells her that she shot her mom. It was an accident, but she is the reason her mother is dead. He tells Lily that her mom was packing to leave because of her. Could this be the reason her dad is so mean to her? Could this be the reason he never tells her that he loves her? Is this the reason he mistreats her?
A lot of things are happening at this time in history. There is talk of sending me to the moon. The Civil Rights bill has been signed by the President, and blacks now have the right to vote. Many prejudiced white southerners don't believe that blacks should have this right.
Rosaleen, the black nanny, came to take care of Lily when her mama left. Since blacks now have the right to vote, she decides to go downtown and register to vote. Three white men who don't like what she is doing beat her up, but she fights back. Because of this, she is arrested, put in jail, and then beaten up again.
Lily busts her out of the hospital where she is put after the second beating, then she and Rosaleen run away and set out for Tiburon. Lily has found a picture her mama had of Black Madonna Honey from Tiburon, South Carolina, so this is where Lily wants to go. There she and Rosaleen meet three very unusual black sisters – August, May, and June Boatwright – who are beekeepers and make Black Madonna honey.
August Boatwright is obviously the one in charge of the family and the one who has the final say in everything. June isn't very trusting and seems to take an instant dislike to Lily. May isn't very stable emotionally. She has her own wailing wall to visit when she is overcome by depression. Lily has sought them out because she wants to learn about her mother's life, and she wants to learn more about how her mama died. She learns more than she bargained for, but what she learns helps her to grow up.
Lily and Rosaleen are now fugitives from justice. There is so much I want to tell you about goes on while they are at the home of the Boatwrights, but I' m afraid I would give too much of this marvelous story away.
During the course of the story, you watch as Lily gains confidence despite what her life has been like, and she falls in love. The Boatwright sisters teach her so much about life, love, and bees as she seeks the truth about what happened to her mother.
The author has done an outstanding job with her cast of characters. It is next to impossible not to become emotionally involved with their lives and extremely hard to put this book down because you want to know what happens to them during this turbulent time in history. This may not be a mystery, a thriller, or a romance, but it is a fantastic read. This coming of age tale kept me on the edge of my seat until I turned the last page.
A copy of this book was sent to me free of charge by the management of BellaOnline in exchange for an honest review. If you would like a copy of this book to read for your own enjoyment, I have placed an Amazon link below.