From the author of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl comes a novel about music, love, friendship, and freedom. Sue Monk Kidd's ravishing debut novel has stolen the hearts of reviewers and readers alike with its strong, assured voice.
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. A young girl, Lily, who lost her mother, and has been abused relentlessly by her father, attempts to make her way into the unknown world to find out who she really is.
This book is set in the south, where in 1964; there are still many racial issues that are impacting society.
Adding to that is the idea that religion, a black “Madonna”, and the cycle of life as it pertains to the smallest creature, all of which allows the reader to become focused on the larger issues in society and life, while at the same time understanding the importance of the smaller issues that we face every day. Upon Lily’s escape from her father’s abusive home, she is taken in by some women who are beekeepers. Once Lily begins living with this trio of eccentric sisters, she is allowed to see the inner most working of the bees, and how life and death can come easily and quickly, for not just humans, but animals as well. Page after page we are presented with the natural life of bees and the correlations to the idea that we as humans can accept a life of freedom as easily as they can, but are held back by the hive that we live within.
Enabling JavaScript in your browser will allow you to experience all the features of our site. 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.
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.
Described as a, “Tale of one motherless daughter’s discovery of what family really means” by The Washington Post. Facing discrimination, starvation, and homelessness, she somehow makes her way to the last place her mother lived.
By incorporation everyday jargon, funny sayings, and the use of acrostic poetry, the reader is taken through many different layers of communication and depth.

She is unsure the correlation, and why they accept her, but she decides that she can help them, and work to take care of herself. There are powerful metaphors within that allow us to see the differences and similarities between us, and a very small, almost at some point, meaningless animal. 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. 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. It is a harrowing tale that not only shows how lives can be interconnected, but also how nature (bees particularly) can be interwoven into life.
Being extremely realistic with the abuse that Lily faces, allows us to connect to the young, 14-year-old, Lily, with reckless abandon. Once the women see the suffering child, and the beat up black maid that accompanies her, they allow them to stay in the home.
While the movie does do a fairly good job incorporating the events that took place in the book, the heavy female bonding scenes are reduced to being a form of silly rubbish and almost made to look foolish and immature, while in the book, you are taken through the intense meanings of them.
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. 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. Without realizing the connection that Lily has with nature, bees, and loved ones, she attempts to find her past and make a better future for herself. Which makes it even easier to relate with them, while understand both the good and bad choices along the way.
Kidd shows us just how powerful the connection between women really is, and in turn, just how defiant it can be at the same time. The characters in the book are also depicted favorably in my mind, but there inner thoughts, smaller actions, and inner dialogue are lost to the movie screen. 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.
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. 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. After she is beaten up and hospitalized, Lily decides to rescue her and they go to Tiburon to search for memories of her mother. Two of her short stories--including an excerpt from The Secret Life of Bees--were selected as notable stories in Best American Short Stories.
There they are taken in by three black sisters who are beekeepers producing a line of honey with the Black Madonna label. The Secret Life of Bees was nominated for the prestigious Orange Prize for fiction in England. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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. 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. It isn't long before Lily and Rosaleen are inducted into their world: "We lived for honey," Lily says.

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