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06.12.2013
I found myself reading Sue Monk Kidd's breathtaking first novel, The Secret Life of Bees, during a season of extraordinary sadness, a time of boundless ache, deep anxiety and creeping distrust. 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.
Fourteen-year-old Lily and Rosaleen, the black woman who has been Lily's stand-in mother for ten years, take to the road in 1964. This sweeping debut novel, excerpts of which have appeared in Best American Short Stories, tells the tale of a 14-year-old white girl named Lily Owen who is raised by the elderly African American Rosaleen after the accidental death of Lily's mother. Lily Owens, 14, is an emotionally abused white girl living with her cold, uncaring father on a peach farm in rural South Carolina.
A wonderfully written debut that rather scants its subject of loss and discovery-a young girl searching for the truth about her dead mother-in favor of a feminist fable celebrating the company of women and the ties between that mothers and daughters.
Scholastic News Online is a free resource with breaking news and highlights from the print magazine. Upgrade your Leveled Bookroom with the all new Leveled Bookroom Conversion Kit Grades K–3!Shipping April 15, LBR Conversion Kits will revitalize old bookrooms at a wildly affordable price!
Upgrade your Leveled Bookroom with the all new Leveled Bookroom Conversion Kit Grades 4–6!Shipping April 15, LBR Conversion Kits will revitalize old bookrooms at a wildly affordable price! Enabling JavaScript in your browser will allow you to experience all the features of our site. Rosaleen is escaping from jail after insulting the town's racists while Lily flees her abusive father and the haunting memory of her mother's violent death. The memory of her mother, who was accidentally killed in Lily's presence when she was four, haunts her constantly.
The prose is lapidary, the characters diverse, and the story unusual as it crosses the color line, details worship of a black Virgin Mary, and extensively describes the lives and keeping of bees.
Available for grades 1-6, Scholastic News magazine brings high-interest current events and nonfiction to millions of classrooms each week.Additionally, our subscribers have FREE access to Scholastic News Interactive, an exclusive online learning tool featuring digital editions, videos, interactive features, differentiated articles, and much more. 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. Fourteen-year-old Lily is on the lam with motherly servant Rosaleen, fleeing both Lily's abusive father T.
They journey to Tiburon, South Carolina, because Lily found the place name on the back of a black Madonna picture among her late mother's possessions.


She has one of her mother's few possessions, a picture of a black Madonna with the words, Tiburon, South Carolina, written on the back. But despite these accomplishments, the fabulist elements (bees as harbingers of death, a statue with healing powers) seem more whimsical than credible and ultimately detract from the story itself. This is a remarkable story about divine female power and the transforming power of love—a story that women will continue to share and pass on to their daughters for years to come.
Lily's companion during her sad childhood has been Rosaleen, the black woman hired to care for her. Lily Owens, just about to turn 14, narrates this tale set in South Carolina during July 1964.
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. There the runaways are sheltered by May, June, and Augusta€”black beekeeping sisters who are also keepers of the truth Lily seeks.
Rosaleen, in a euphoric mood after the passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, goes to town to register to vote and insults one of the town's most racist residents. Since her mother died when she was four, Lily has been raised by African-American Rosaleen and by her sadistic father T. After she is beaten up and hospitalized, Lily decides to rescue her and they go to Tiburon to search for memories of her mother.
There they are taken in by three black sisters who are beekeepers producing a line of honey with the Black Madonna label. When Rosaleen is arrested and beaten for trying to vote, Lily springs her from the hospital, and they head to the town of Tiburon because its name is on the back of a cross that belonged to Lily's mother.
It turns out that the town is headquarters of Black Madonna Honey, produced by three middle-aged black sisters, August, June and May Boatwright. While racial tensions simmer around them, the women help Lily accept her loss and learn the power of forgiveness. On the front is a picture of a black Madonna who can also be seen on the labels of jars of honey produced in Tiburon by local beekeeper Augusta Boatwright.
The way those bees flew, not even looking for a flower, just flying for the feel of the wind, split my heart down its seam." This is how the book begins, and this is how the author transports us into the story. 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.


There is a wonderful sense of the strength of female friendship and love throughout the story.-Penny Stevens, Andover College, Portland, ME Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information. Certain the secret to her mother's past lies in Tiburon, Lily persuades Augusta to take them in. But August, clearly the queen bee of the Boatwrights, keeps asking Lily searching questions. The other characters are wise and understanding mother figures, but Lily captures the reader.
Well, I had to definitely learn who the character was and when she was born and what it was like in that time era. But Lily is a budding writer, desperate to connect yet fiercely protective of her secret interior life. This novel also is of place and settinga€”the oppressive heat, the swarming bees, the countryside smells, and the pervasive racism are experienced through Kidd's words. I had to learn about the Civil Rights Movement, a lot of black history and American history and experience certain things.
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.
It just [explained] where we came from—like back into slavery all the way up to the year 2000. She lives with her father, a punishing man, and with Rosaleen, Lily's black "stand-in mother," who had worked on the family's peach farm until she was brought inside to take on the newly motherless girl.
Rosaleen has been practicing her cursive writing so that she can register to vote, and she has picked herself a candidate to back. I'm not one for a whole lot of reading, but this book just grabbed me in and I loved everything about it. It isn't long before Lily and Rosaleen are inducted into their world: "We lived for honey," Lily says.



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