Friday, December 12, 2008

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

About the book:

Sue Monk Kidd's ravishing debut novel has stolen the hearts of reviewers and readers alike with its strong, assured voice. Set in South Carolina in 1964, The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. When Lily's fierce-hearted "stand-in mother," Rosaleen, insults three of the town's fiercest racists, Lily decides they should both escape to Tiburon, South Carolina--a town that holds the secret to her mother's past. There they are taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters who introduce Lily to a mesmerizing world of bees, honey, and the Black Madonna who presides over their household. This is a remarkable story about divine female power and the transforming power of love--a story that women will share and pass on to their daughters for years to come.


I found the novel to be a steadily paced read. Set in the 1960s, you are immediately brought up to speed about the "tween" named Lily. Her mother has died tragically and her father is a bitter, hard-working man who takes his aggression out on his daughter.

Eventually, she leaves with her caretaker, Roselynn, to a place she is sure her mother has been to before she died.

There she meets the Boatwright sisters, August, May, and June who live in the pink house. They offer her and Roselynn a place to stay. These are strange sisters with exceedingly different personalities. June is a schoolteacher, who follows life by the book. August is the mother lode, who raises bees. She is so eloquently intricate in her life pattern that you feel enveloped by this character as if she were your mother cuddling you to her bosom. And then there is May! Overcome by emotions from her past, she has to be protected by her sisters at all costs.

This is a charming "come of age" story about Lily and the way the author interweaves the story of life with the history of bees is remarkable. There is certainly a lot to be learned from reading this book. It is a very easy read and you will feel better about yourself when you have finished it.

About the author:

Sue Monk Kidd, author of the highly acclaimed memoirs The Dance of the Dissident Daughter and When the Heart Waits, has won a Poets & Writers award, a Katherine Anne Porter Award, and a Bread Loaf scholarship. Two of her short stories--including an excerpt from The Secret Life of Bees--were selected as notable stories in Best American Short Stories. The Secret Life of Bees was nominated for the prestigious Orange Prize for fiction in England.

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