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The Secret Life of Bees Hardcover – October 10, 2002


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; 1st edition (October 10, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670032379
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670032372
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.8 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,302 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #85,784 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees, 14-year-old Lily Owen, neglected by her father and isolated on their South Carolina peach farm, spends hours imagining a blissful infancy when she was loved and nurtured by her mother, Deborah, whom she barely remembers. These consoling fantasies are her heart's answer to the family story that as a child, in unclear circumstances, Lily accidentally shot and killed her mother. All Lily has left of Deborah is a strange image of a Black Madonna, with the words "Tiburon, South Carolina" scrawled on the back. The search for a mother, and the need to mother oneself, are crucial elements in this well-written coming-of-age story set in the early 1960s against a background of racial violence and unrest. When Lily's beloved nanny, Rosaleen, manages to insult a group of angry white men on her way to register to vote and has to skip town, Lily takes the opportunity to go with her, fleeing to the only place she can think of--Tiburon, South Carolina--determined to find out more about her dead mother. Although the plot threads are too neatly trimmed, The Secret Life of Bees is a carefully crafted novel with an inspired depiction of character. The legend of the Black Madonna and the brave, kind, peculiar women who perpetuate Lily's story dominate the second half of the book, placing Kidd's debut novel squarely in the honored tradition of the Southern Gothic. --Regina Marler

From Publishers Weekly

Honey-sweet but never cloying, this debut by nonfiction author Kidd (The Dance of the Dissident Daughter) features a hive's worth of appealing female characters, an offbeat plot and a lovely style. It's 1964, the year of the Civil Rights Act, in Sylvan, S.C. Fourteen-year-old Lily is on the lam with motherly servant Rosaleen, fleeing both Lily's abusive father T. Ray and the police who battered Rosaleen for defending her new right to vote. Lily is also fleeing memories, particularly her jumbled recollection of how, as a frightened four-year-old, she accidentally shot and killed her mother during a fight with T. Ray. Among her mother's possessions, Lily finds a picture of a black Virgin Mary with "Tiburon, S.C." on the back so, blindly, she and Rosaleen head there. It turns out that the town is headquarters of Black Madonna Honey, produced by three middle-aged black sisters, August, June and May Boatwright. The "Calendar sisters" take in the fugitives, putting Lily to work in the honey house, where for the first time in years she's happy. But August, clearly the queen bee of the Boatwrights, keeps asking Lily searching questions. Faced with so ideally maternal a figure as August, most girls would babble uncontrollably. But Lily is a budding writer, desperate to connect yet fiercely protective of her secret interior life. Kidd's success at capturing the moody adolescent girl's voice makes her ambivalence comprehensible and charming. And it's deeply satisfying when August teaches Lily to "find the mother in (herself)" a soothing lesson that should charm female readers of all ages. (Jan. 28)Forecast: Blurbs from an impressive lineup of women writers Anita Shreve, Susan Isaacs, Ursula Hegi pitch this book straight at its intended readership. It's hard to say whether confusion with the similarly titled Bee Season will hurt or help sales, but a 10-city author tour should help distinguish Kidd. Film rights have been optioned and foreign rights sold in England and France.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Sue Monk Kidd's first novel, The Secret Life of Bees, spent more than one hundred weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, has sold nearly six million copies, and was chosen as the 2004 BookSense Paperback Book of the Year and Good Morning America's "Read This!" Book Club pick. It was adapted into an award-winning movie in 2008. Her second novel, The Mermaid Chair, a #1 New York Times bestseller, won the 2005 Quill Book Award for Best General Fiction and was adapted into a television movie. Her novels have been published in more than thirty countries. She is also the author of several acclaimed memoirs and the recipient of many awards, including a Poets & Writers Award. She lives near Charleston, South Carolina.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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If you want a book that will make you laugh and cry, read this.
J. Brinson
The story comes together, and eventually Lily learns about her mother and the meaning of love, caring and forgiveness.
Judith Miller
The author has a beautiful writing style and filled the story with emotion.
Kerrie Griffin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

131 of 141 people found the following review helpful By Kelly Budd on May 29, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The Secret Life of Bee's is an enduring story set on a southern bee farm. The characters will enlighten and warm your heart. The Secret Life of Bee's is similar to many southern stories; however, the bee lore that Kidd interjects throughout makes the book unique and interesting. The Secret Life of Bee's is a heartwarming, feel good read. There are universal lessons about family and self throughout.
The main character, Lily Owens is fleeing an abusive father and an all-consuming truth surrounding her mother's death. The Secret Life of Bee's is set in the 1960's when racial tensions and violence were at an all time high. Lily and her caretaker Rosaleen, leave town after a violent encounter with racists while Rosaleen was attempting to exercise some of her newly granted freedoms.
Since the death of her mother, Lilly has a few precious clues as to her last days. The clues lead Lily and Rosaleen to Tiburon, South Carolina where they meet the `calendar sisters', May, June, and August Boatwright. The Boatwright sisters operate a successful Bee farm. Lily and Rosaleen are welcomed to the farm with open arms. Through her work on the farm, Lily is able to examine her past and begin to trust as she finds love again.
The Secret Life of Bee's is the story of mothers. The reader will travel with Lily as she experiences each of the four remarkable women ~ Rosaleen, May, June, and August. Each of these women is a teacher and guide to Lily. It is through her experiences that she is able to discern that a mother is more than just a biological bond.
A great debut for Sue Monk Kidd. I cannot help thinking that I would have loved to learn more about Boatwright sisters...maybe there is room for another story!
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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 18, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I gave this book to my 15 year old daughter to read and she came back after finishing it exclaiming, " All those mothers!" Motherhood and its powerful influence (both good and bad) on each of us is a central theme to the story and the quest for all that a mother implies (safety, acceptance, unconditional love)draws the reader immediately to Lily Owen, the 14 year old narrator. I thought this book had beautiful imagery, a nice balance of goodness overcoming loss, and most of all conceded to the power of redemption. Sue Monk Kidd did a wonderful job weaving the racial tensions of the 1960's into the voice of the main character and bringing us, the reader, along for the ride as the young girl discovers what it feels like to be discriminated against herself, the dangers of racial inequality, and the basic human elements that bind us to each other despite color or class. This story is about a journey of growth and addresses that fundamental need in each of us to find answers to the questions of who we are. I have found, months later, that The Secret Life of Bees is still with me and I recommend it over and over again.
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4 of 0 people found the following review helpful By nodice on May 2, 2007
Format: Paperback
About the only thing this book has going for it is a good title. That's it. Sure there are a few cute turn of phrases every now and then, but none of the characters seem real nor the the situation. The first three chapters are pretty good, but it's down hill from there. I don't understand why Rosaleen, marching to do one of the most important things in her life, would purposely pour spit juice of those racist men's shoes, add that she was in charge of a child at the time. Mighty funny when we the get to the pink house, Rosaleen's spitting habits seem to disappear. The whole Black Mary cult thing read like high fantasy and I had a hard time making the connection from some ship's ornament to rituals where you rub honey all over it. And why did May do what she did? I thought something worse happened to Zach when his mother called-but no he was fine and was getting out jail soon. I'm like-what? I could never get the timeline right. It seemed like months were passing then you'd find out that it was just a couple of days. The un-neccassry lies were just plot contrivances to drag out the story. Lily's pining for her mother should have touched me, but instead it annoyed me. Seems to me that she would be more haunted by her *accident* with the gun than her mother leaving her with her father for a short time. The fact that once her mother came to herself and went back for her completely went over her head. Overall, my main beef with the book is that it didn't feel like it was truely 1964. Example: Zach wouldn't have willy nilly driven a white a girl to town alone in the south. When someone confessed to the police who threw the bottle, I was like, then why didn't Lily do the same thing? She rather let Zach go to jail than to even try to prevent it? Anyway, I had to force myself to finish.
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164 of 188 people found the following review helpful By Derek Johnson on May 1, 2003
Format: Paperback
"The queen, for her part, is the unifying force of the community; if she is removed from the hive, the workers very quickly sense her absence. After a few hours, or even less, they show unmistakable signs of queenlessness."
The Secret Life of Bees is a wonderful story that brings hope and strength to those that are in the midst of a journey through life. The author, Sue Monk Kidd, does an excellent job of drawing the reader into the story. By the end of the novel, the reader has developed a relationship with the main character, Lily Owens, and leaves you wondering what else lies ahead in Lily�s life. The story begins during the summer of 1964 in South Carolina. We are immediately drawn into Lily�s struggle with a vague memory of the death of her mother. Her mother was shot and killed in a freak accident when she was only four years old. Throughout Lily�s journey we discover more and more about her mother and her death.
Lily�s journey begins when she goes into town with her African American housekeeper, Rosaleen. The Civil Rights Act has just been passed and Rosaleen is going into town to register to vote. On their way into town Rosaleen gets into a fight with three of the most racist men in town and ends up getting both Lily and herself thrown in jail. Lily�s abusive father, T. Ray, bails her out but on their way back they get into an argument about Lily�s mother. ��Not funny?� he yelled. �Not funny? Why, it�s the funniest goddamn thing I ever heard: you think your mother is your guardian angel.� He laughed again. �The woman could have cared less about you.�� This was absolutely devastating for Lily to hear. She knew she could not stay with T. Ray and live with his physical and emotional abuse.
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