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The Secret Life of Bees: Tie In Edition Paperback – August 20, 2008
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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.
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Top Customer Reviews
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!
This is a solid 4 1/2-star book, as many other reviewers have written. They've done a better job than I of explaining why you should read this book, so I won't go into that here.
However, some of us may want to know that the "Good Morning America says READ THIS!" sticker on the front of the hardcover is not a sticker at all, but is printed into the dust jacket and is therefore permanent and irremovable. For this reason, I'm returning it. I already own it as an old used paperback, but was hoping to have a more permanent, nice copy. This is not that.
If the permanent tie-in dust cover is not a big deal to you, please disregard. But if you're something of a book aesthete, now you know.
Lily rescues her stand-in mother, Rosaleen, from the hospital and they go to Tibrion, SC, to escape from Lily's dad and the townsfolks in her hometown. A peach grower's daughter, Lily has only one clear memory of her mother ~~ the day she was killed. So for most of Lily's life, she has felt like there was a hole in her heart ~~ and longs for a mother to care for her. So this novel is basically a journey into one's past, facing the harsh truths of reality and finding redemption. Lily and Rosaleen meet a house full of women, one of whom is a beekeeper. Lily discovers her secrets as she tends to the bees ~~ and finds herself growing into womanhood.
This is a moving story about a girl on the threshold of womanhood ~~ seeking the truth for her mother and about herself. It is about women bonding together in times of duress and in times of joy. But mostly, it is about Lily and her tribulations and trimpuhs ~~ and growing up in the deep South in the 60s just as the Civil Rights Movement began. It's an interesting novel and one to share with others. It's definitely a good book club reading choice!