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The Secret Life of Bees
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134 of 144 people found the following review helpful
on May 29, 2002
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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39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on December 18, 2002
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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166 of 191 people found the following review helpful
on May 2, 2003
"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. She also knew she needed to find the truth about what happened to her mother.
She decides to break Rosaleen out of jail and travel to Tiburon, South Carolina. It is here where she meets the calendar sisters, May, June and August. While living with them Lily becomes engulfed in a completely different lifestyle from which she came from. She becomes an incredible beekeeper and develops strong relationships with the sisters. Throughout her stay with the sisters she begins to learn more about the truth of her mother�s life and the mystery of her death.
Kidd does a remarkable job of drawing parallels between the life of bees and the life that Lily is leading. Each chapter begins with a quote about bees that directly relates to what happens to Lily in that chapter. The struggle that Lily went through when her mother was killed is like the struggle a hive goes through when they lose their queen. �A queenless colony is a pitiful and melancholy community; there may be a mournful wail or lament from within�.Without intervention, the colony will die. But introduce a new queen and the most extravagant change takes place.�
While there is no real replacement for a lost love one, Lily finds an almost motherly comfort within the calendar sisters. Their relationships grow stronger until Lily begins to feel as if she is a member of the family. �It was how Sugar-Girl said what she did, like I was truly one of them. [�] They didn�t even think of me being different.� As Lily begins to gain the trust of the sisters she tells them the entire story about her mother, and her leaving T. Ray, and discovers more about her mother than she could have ever imagined.
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576 of 681 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2002
If you liked Kaye Gibbon's "Ellen Foster" then Lily Owens will capture your heart. When her father, T. Ray, punished her by making her kneel on grits, I immediately knew that she was a survivor and he was a coward. May, June, and August Boatwright, the beekeeping sisters, and their Black Madonna honey were exquisite. May's tortured soul taught me about empathy gone awry. Sue Monk Kidd's strong southern storytelling skills are reminiscent of Reynolds Price and Harper Lee. In this her first novel, the writing isn't perfect but it tugged at my heart the way Barbara Kingsolver's "Pigs in Heaven" did. The characters, the time period and the small town setting made it similar to "To Kill a Mockingbird." This novel should be read by parents and teens together. I hope Kidd plans a sequel. I care so much about the characters that I yearn to know about their future lives.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on March 29, 2003
I picked up this book only because it was always lying around the house(my mother buys books than it takes her about a year to finish them), and wow I am glad this was the book that I choose. I am a sixteen year old trying to cope with the death of my older brother four years ago and while Lily was dealing with a very different loss in this book the realizations that she came to about life, death, and family really affected me. Not only is this a book about family for a more mature audience I think that this is a great book for anyone my age who really wants a good read about the life and trials of someone their own age.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on September 28, 2002
Reading this book helped me to remember that love can transform even the deepest wounds. The Black Mary in the story leaves unforgettable images in my mind. Only a writer who has absorbed an incredible storehouse of knowledge about life could have written this. The characters are eccentric and delicious. The setting vibrates with truth. The plot dazzles you with its unexpected twists and turns. Black Mary will remain in my heart forever, just as the "calendar" sisters will. They are archtypes of everyday people we encounter. Those healers-of-our-hearts who arrive unexpectedly to guide us to a higher knowledge. The wailing wall especially touched me. Yes, the pain the world suffers hits some of us especially hard, but nature, the rocks in the wall accepting all that grief, and the river that embraced the lost...the bees...Damn! This was a good book. The kind I return to again and again whenever I need to renew my faith in the human spirit, to realize that something "out there" leads us all to our own Tiburons. Thank you Sue Monk for such a wonderful adventure...from the first page to last, I could hardly breath because I was so awed by the beauty you mapped.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICEon January 27, 2006
This New York Times best selling novel is a beautifully written, coming of age story, set in rural South Carolina in 1964 against the back drop of the civil rights movement. It is the touching story of a young white girl, fourteen year old Lily Owens, whose mother died in a tragic accident when Lily was about four. Lily lives with her father, a harsh man with whom no love is lost, on a peach farm outside Sylvan, South Carolina. Her mother's death stands between them.

Neglected by her father, Lily is brought up by Rosaleen, a big-hearted black woman, who loves Lily and whom Lily loves. Yet, hers is a lonely existence, compounded by her unquenched thirst for information about her mother, Deborah. All she has left of her mother are some cloudy memories and a box containing a few mementos, among them a picture of a Black Madonna, inscribed with the words, "Tiburon, S.C."

When Rosaleen goes into town to register to vote, she feels empowered by the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and has a run-in with the town's three biggest racists, resulting in Rosaleen being taken into custody. Lily arranges for her to break free. Together, they seek sanctuary in Tiburon, South Carolina, where Lily discovers the mystery of the Black Madonna.

Taken in by a trio of middle-aged black women who are sisters, as well as beekeepers, Lily is introduced to the secret life of bees and begins to learn some important life lessons. She also learns something about her mother and finds love where she least expected.

This is simply a beautifully realized novel, written in a true Southern voice by a wonderful writer with a story to tell. It is little wonder that this compelling book has received so many accolades. It is a stunning fiction debut by the author.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on July 31, 2003
The Secret Life of Bees is a beautifully rendered story of a young girl's attempt to find a loving, safe haven and to piece together her life in order to find her place in the world. Lily is a 14 yr. old girl who lives alone with her father on a peach farm. Her mother was accidentally shot and killed when Lily was very young. Lily's father is unloving and demanding of Lily, punishing her for perceived infractions of his rules. The near lynching of Lily's beloved Rosaleen, the woman who has helped raise her and teach her about love is a pivotal moment in Lily's life. She takes this, and uses it to run away to the only place she can find any link to her dead mother's past, Tiburon, South Carolina. She and Rosaleen show up looking for a future, for answers, for peace and acceptance. As the story unfolds itself, the lessons learned about what love and friendship really mean, and the fact that no matter what your past or present holds , each person possesses the keys to their own life. This was a soul searching story told with grace and clarity.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on September 9, 2002
I will not give a mini book review; others have done far better than I. Instead, I wish to note the impact of this book on me. Once in a blue moon, someone like Sue Monk Kidd can weave a tale of the fragile heart of teenage girls and create a story that pierces our hearts and minds. She has done what few writers can do...made me cry...tears of sadness for Lily and tears brought on by the sheer gentleness of May and August and the struggle of heart within June. I especially loved the way she surrounded her story with the secret lives of bees and their fragile existence as well. Finally, I could almost feel the love that August had for Lily lift straight from the pages of the book. It was as though the bees had flown around me as well and embraced the teenage girl in all of us. The Boatright sisters give me hope that a world like this could really exist. I love May for her wailing wall, August for her gentle heart, and June for her ability to grow. I thank you, Sue Monk Kidd, for a wonderful story.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
This coming of age story by Sue Monk Kidd, is more than that. An well written book about a young girl's struggle to find redemption after a lifetime of abuse by a father who can't seem to forgive.
Although white, Lily seems to fit right in with the other members of the black Boatwright family. Her quest to find her mother's past and learn about her own future is the point in this lovely book. Interspersed with the raising of bees for honey, there appear the struggles of the blacks in the 1960s and Lily's father a typical southern male adds to the mess with his warped mental attitude.
I enjoyed this book and recommend it to others who like coming of age or finding yourself type books.
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