The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd

The Secret Life of Bees by Kidd Monk Kidd: Book CoverFinished 4-2-09, rating 5/5, fiction, pub. 2002

Next to Shakespeare I love Thoreau best.  Mrs. Henry made us read portions of Walden Pond, and afterward I’d had fantasises of going to a private garden where T. Ray would never find me.  I started appreciating Mother Nature, what she’d done with the world.  In my mind she looked like Eleanor Roosevelt.

Chapter 3

It’s 1964 in South Carolina and Lily is a fourteen year old living with her abusive dad and the knowledge that she killed her mother.  All she has of her mother is a photo and a picture of a black Mary with the words Tiburon, South Carolina written on the back.  When she chooses to spring her nanny, Rosaleen, from jail they hitchhike to Tiburon so Lily can find the memory of her mother.  What she finds are three African-American beekeepers that live in a pink house.  The three sisters take  in Lily and Rosaleen.

This novel has been popular for so long, it almost seems silly to to write a review, but I am sometimes silly.  My Mom gave me this book in 2003 and told me I had to read, but I didn’t think it was my type of book.  So, I am silly, a major procrastinator and occasionally wrong.  I absolutely loved this book.

 I thought Lily’s heartbreak over the confusion of her mother’s death and her pain of having T. Ray not love her was touching and real.  I loved her embarrassment over Rosaleen and Rosaleen blossoming in the pink house.  The three sisters were each interesting and August provided Lily with the rock that she needed.  

I didn’t even mind learning about bees and the Black Madonna.  I’m not sure I totally got the ‘religion’ the small group practiced, but it did provide stability for Lily.  And the bees helped her gain confidence.

The book was not only about losing a mother, but racial inequality.  Lily was the only white girl in a house filled with black.  Zach, who worked with the bees, provided Lily with the knowledge that desire is color blind and he was also a friend to lean on.   August, June, and May all accepted her even though it was highly improbable at the time.  I loved Rosaleen’s obsession with registering to vote and the full circle the story provided for her.

This is the best book I’ve read in awhile and I’m happy to have finally read it.  Now I can watch the movie.  Will I be disappointed?