Read The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd Online


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 ofSue 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....

Title : The Secret Life of Bees
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780670894604
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 302 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Secret Life of Bees Reviews

  • Kerry
    2019-03-12 22:53

    Okay, hear me out. This is SO not the kind of book I normally read. It's the kind of book my mother reads. You know the type I'm talking about: "Reviving Ophelia", "Not Without My Daughter"...mother-y books. It was, in fact, my mother who demanded I read this book, because she read it in her book club. DOUBLE red flag. That is when I normally drop the book and run as fast as possible away from her, screaming and flailing my arms. But when she gave me this book I happened to have a lot of time on my hands, so I determined to read it just to humor her, and braced myself for a sickeningly bittersweet learn-about-yourself Ya Ya Sisterhood fiasco. And really, it kind of was. But in a cool way. And I liked it. Don't get me wrong, it is definitely chock-full of estrogen-soaked coming of age wisdom, complete with a veritable orgy scene of feminine self-discovery in which a roomful of goddess-worshipping gospel earth mothers smear honey onto a wooden likeness of the Virgin Mary.Admit it, you're kind of interested. It's just good. Totally not for everyone, but it's good, and it's stayed with me all this time. It's kind of a period piece, too, and I guessed what I loved about it is that it's so not done. It really is pretty fresh and in my opnion, worthwhile.

  • Sammy
    2019-02-20 19:04

    Ahhh! *gasp* *choke* *stammer* I can barely find the words to say how much I loved this book. Honestly, The Secret Life of Bees has to be one of the best books I've read in a while. I just want to give it several A+'s and a kiss!It was touching, well-written, beautiful, full of expression, insightful, anything you could want in a book and then some. It started off with a bang, that wasn't a bang... it grabbed you, but didn't startle you so much that the rest of the book was dull in comparison. There was romance, love, family, racial issues, religious experiences, and bees.I have a feeling the title may deter a lot of people thinking that, oh, it's a book about bees! Well, there is a lot mentioned about bees, but it only helps enrich the story. With elements in the bees lives that tied in nicely with the lives of Lily Owens and the bee keeping sisters. All the characters are full and developed, except for the asshole racists in the very beginning of the book and somewhere in the middle, but even then real life racists aren't full and developed either. I'm sorry if you're a racist and you're reading this, but... well, fuck off. Mwa ha ha ha!The only problem I had with this book was that I wished it was longer... but I think it was the perfect length. Nothing dragged out and nothing cut too short. Like little bears porridge, chair, and bed, it was perfect! I'm not surprised their making a movie out of it... I just hope that most people read the book before going to see it, because if they mess it up in the movie, that could deterr a lot of people from reading this wonderful book. And typically books are better than movies, because there's more and you have more freedom for thought. I also want them to cast me. *wink wink*Sue Monk Kidd mentioned about possibly writing a sequel, possibly after she finishes writing her current work in progress The Mermaid Chair (which, if she continues writing like she did in this book, I will gobble up as soon as it comes out). I hope she doesn't write a sequel though, because The Secret Life of Bees can truely stand on it's own. And I'm sure as much as many people want to read more about Lily Owens and the Daughters of Mary, I think it will be hard for the second novel to live up to the expectations the first one made. This book may make it hard for Sue Monk Kidd... but if her writing continues to be as stellar as the writing in this book... she will have a fan base almost as big as J.K. Rowling. Potter-heads note the word almost.

  • Dolly
    2019-03-03 16:37

    I confess to being a little hesitant going into this book. It is, after all, that most cliched and irritating of literati faves: a coming-of-age story set in the American South. Lily, a motherless 14-year-old girl lives with her bigoted abusive father on a peach farm in South Carolina. Her goals involve befriending black people and finding information about her long-dead mother. Just summarizing this thing inspires the eye-rolling.But the book does have some saving graces. First, the writing is incredible. Voice, pacing, transition, and word choice are all stellar. On a micro level, Ms Kidd is magnificent. For instance, despite the predictability of telling such a tale from the young girl's point of view, I thought the decision worked here. Lily herself is absolutely charming. She is completely honest with the reader, often to her own detriment. If the story had been written from anyone else's point of view, Lily would have been pathetic: abused motherless little girl who harbors way too much guilt and angst. This book could have gone off the deep end real easy. But Lily is a survivor and an optimist, and her naive faith drives this book.Mostly. As you might expect in a story of this sort, there was plenty of menstruation angst, boyfriend nervousness, junior cheerleader tryouts, and the requisite abusive father. All of these things were painful to read. However, something that made this book somewhat fresh was the strong theme of race. For a nice chunk of the book, Lily is on the lam with her black housekeeper Rosaleen, traipsing through 1960s South Carolina after busting Rosaleen out of jail for offending some white guys. I was struck with the parallels to Mark Twain, only here the adventure was overlaid -- sometimes heavy handedly -- with a female sensibility. Nice. In fact, all of the embedded feminism was well done. Recurrent natural images of moonlight and water were beautiful and deliciously pagan. The author went to a lot of trouble to create a new religion just for girls: part Catholicism, part goddess-centered paganism, part ancestor worship. The religious aspect was interesting, but not as compelling as the author wanted it to be. I could tell she was trying to impress me with the notion of Mary as a goddess protector. But I didn't buy it. Lily bought it, though, and that was enough to keep me reading.The whole book was a quest for independence, I think. To find confidence and drive within, without always needing that crutch of others' acceptance. The book almost achieved that. But it gave in at the last, to deliver a happy ending. Now that I think about it, much of the book was cliche. But it was also a good read. The strength of the narrative voice saved it, and it had some absolutely gut-twisting parts. The line beginning "She was all I ever wanted" .... both painful and breathtaking.

  • Anna
    2019-03-07 00:44

    It was ironic that I read most of this book on Mother's Day. At the core, this book isn't about race relations, the Virgin Mary, or even beekeeping, though those are all interesting parts of the story. It's a book about mothers. Mothers who are imperfect, mothers who make mistakes, and women who become mothers because they see people who need to be loved. I can't readily connect to most of those other topics, but everyone on the planet knows what it's like to have--or need--a mother in their lives.The other part I loved about this book is the writing style. I've read very few books with such fanastic, simple imagery and accessible symbolism. I wish I underlined all my favorite metaphors in the book (like the dragonflies stitching the air) and I loved the parallels between the bee colonies and the women living in the pink house. It's books like these that make me want to write.

  • Jeffrey
    2019-03-12 21:37

    I surveyed my class and 80% gave it two thumbs up: 5 stars. That's 28 out of 35 students. The rest of the class gave it an OK: 3 or 4 stars. So my giving it 5 stars has been backed by research into the general public's taste. ;=) Now, I'm not much for spending time on fiction. I don't need entertainment, I need information. But as a story teller, occasional writing class instructor, I like to keep up with some of the new fiction. Bees is pretty good. I don't get a sense of the forced or trite here like I do in a lot of fiction. In reading most fiction, I can almost hear the writer thinking. I guess it's because I write and my intimate knowledge of the craft allows me to see a lot before it comes. Kind of like an actor who you know is just acting. But Kidd's writing is like Will Smith in Ali or Jamie Fox in Ray. In Ali there is no Smith and in Ray there is no Fox. Art works best when it's done by the talented who tap into the moment so right, so purely it stops being art and becomes real. Bees is real. Some readers on Goodreads and Amazon had trouble with such things as the bee quotes at the start of each chapter being a bit obvious, the religious theme (didn't state but I'm sure it has to do with the women eating cake as the body of Mary), the triteness of a coming of age story and some of the characterization (ie: stereotypical African / American women) and so forth, but I believe these are more personal problems than problems with the story. In the overall scheme of analysis, these issues were cosmetic, superficial at best. Most liked it: In my class. At Goodreads. On Amazon. I find it humorous that many of the pseudo-reviewers / intellectuals (if I throw in some over priced words, I'm a big-time reviewer) love to sling review-speak but have no or little experience in hands-on experience: writing. Maybe it's writer-wanna-be frustration or other personal issues. There’s a lot to be said for freeing oneself of inhibiting characteristics / weaknesses and the success and release of open-mindedness. Nevertheless . . . Bottom line, I was impressed and I've read a lot of stories and written many myself. I know the difficulties involved in making a story work, making is real, and connecting to readers. This book does all that and more. Highly recommended.

  • Brenda
    2019-03-09 21:50

    Fourteen year old Lily was so tired of her father yelling at her, forcing punishment on her almost daily, accusing her of things she didn’t do – so when Rosaleen, her nanny since her mother’s death when she was just four years old, was arrested and beaten by white men – with the police looking on - Lily decided enough was enough. The racial prejudice in South Carolina in the 1960s was oppressive and cruel – Lily couldn’t work out why skin colour made such a difference.With no plan other than to get away from her home town of Sylvan, Lily and Rosaleen headed in the general direction of Tiburon. The mystery surrounding the death of Lily’s mother, and the little bit she knew about her, pulled her in that direction. But where they would go from there was anyone’s guess. Sanctuary was granted to Lily and Rosaleen when they found themselves at the garish, bright pink home of beekeeping sisters, May, June and August, whom Lily called the Calendar Ladies. As Lily worked with August and the bees, and Rosaleen in the kitchen with May, Lily found herself confused and lost. Would she ever find peace? She was a white girl living among coloured women – her heart felt soft with love toward these women, but the white population of the town didn’t understand. Would Lily ever find out what happened to her mother all those years ago?The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd is a beautifully written masterpiece in my humble opinion. I loved the writing; the descriptions; the humour sprinkled through the story. There was sadness and love, hope and forgiveness – but ultimately The Secret Life of Bees is the coming of age for a young girl who had more than enough tragedy in her life. I highly recommend this book; my second by this author…

  • Jason Koivu
    2019-02-21 18:05

    Read it. Enjoyed it. Any day now I expect to be entirely swallowed up by my own home-grown vagina. If you've read The Help, you don't need to read this. One contemporary coming of age book about a white southern girl amongst black women discovering life in 1960s is plenty. Sue Monk Kidd's explosively popular (I'm going to go out on a very sturdy limb and guess that this was an Oprah book) The Secret Life of Bees is a perfectly enjoyable read that any mother would love. Oh the imagery, the ambiance, the estrogen! Halfway through I wanted nothing more than to curl up in my cardy on the couch with a cuppa herbal something-or-other and sip the sweet nectar of these succulent words. They flowed like honey: sweet, warm, and slow…Oh so slow at times. There are only two or three moments in the 300+ pages that woke me from the pleasant droning (get it? the bees?) that entrances, captivating the reader's mind and attention. The soft ideas about religion, love and the mother-daughter bond hum against your ears, the buzz of thought never going beyond a distant whirring zzzzzzzz.

  • Ahmad Sharabiani
    2019-03-21 16:39

    The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kiddعنوانها: زندگی اسرارآمیز زنبورها؛ زندگی اسرارآمیز؛ زندگی پنهان زنبورها؛ نویسنده: سو مانک کید؛ عنوان: زندگی اسرارآمیز زنبورها؛ نویسنده: سو مانک کید؛ مترجم: شقایق قندهاری؛ تهران، علم، 1383؛ در 430 ص؛ شابک: 9644053958؛ داستانهای نویسندگان امریکایی قرن 20 معنوان: زندگی اسرارآمیز زنبورها؛ نویسنده: سو مانک کید؛ مترجم: صدیقه ابراهیمی (فخار)؛ تهران، البرز، 1384؛ در 376 ص؛ شابک: 9644424506؛ عنوان: زندگی اسرارآمیز؛ نویسنده: سو مانک کید؛ مترجم: گیتا گرکانی؛ تهران، کاروا، 1385؛ در 379 ص؛ شابک: 9648497346؛ عنوان: زندگی اسرارآمیز؛ نویسنده: سو مانک کید؛ مترجم: عباس زارعی؛ تهران، آموت، 1393؛ در 379 ص؛ شابک: 9786006605579؛ داستان لی‌لی دختری چهارده ساله است. دختری که همراه با پدر و دایه‌ ی خویش، در یک مزرعه‌ ی هلو، خارج از ناحیه‌ ی سیلوان زندگی می‌کند. او در چهار سالگی مادرش خویش را از دست داده، و خود را مقصر مرگ مادر می‌داند؛ و در عین حال با پدرش نیز رابطه‌ ی خوبی ندارد. لی‌لی به زنبورها علاقه‌ ی ویژه ای نشان می‌دهد. او دختر ساده‌ ای ست که شخصیتی افسرده دارد، و هماره احساس می‌کند، که دیگران او را دوست ندارند. لی‌لی به همراه دایه‌ اش به شهر می‌رود، و از خانه می‌گریزد. و ...؛ ا. شربیانی

  • RaeWalker
    2019-03-10 21:36

    This was a harmless, heart warming book that did not change my life or enrich my thinking in any large way - except perhaps that I am slightly less afraid of bees. One thing that is a slight pet peeve with me is the healing power apparently inherent in the culture of the 'other'. Here is the formula: 1 caucasian person, hurt and broken by the world they live in, be it by family, work or environment + 1 minority culture (black or asian is fine) = that one caucasian person finding the true wonders in life and becoming a more secure and happy human being after being surrounded by drove of their black or yellow or red skinned friends, who show them beauty and love such as a white person has never known. Thank you minority culture! All black women are not royalty, "like hidden queens". But a little known fact is that all, ALL old asian men are kung fu masters. To summarize, I might criticize this book but I did read it in a weekend and there is something to be said for the ability of an author to keep his/her readers engaged. It is a good beach book. So there.

  • Saleh MoonWalker
    2019-02-20 00:51

    Onvan : The Secret Life of Bees - Nevisande : Sue Monk Kidd - ISBN : 142001740 - ISBN13 : 9780142001745 - Dar 336 Safhe - Saal e Chap : 2001

  • Bil
    2019-03-13 19:59

    Set in 1964 at Sylvan, South Carolina, the Secret Life of Bees tells the coming-of-age story of Lily Owens whose life has been nothing but a struggle after her mother’s unexpected death.Heartwarming and empowering, Kidd took me on a journey of self-acceptance, faith, and freedom.In a time of growing racial tension and violence, I found a touching story of a young girl in a bee farm with an endearing set of characters. Evidently, the main focus of the plot was Lily but I also liked how the underlying theme of civil rights movement wraps the narration.The plot also centered on the story of mothers. On this novel, it was the Boatwright sisters: August, June, and May, and of course, Lily's nanny, Rosaleen. Each character engrossed me into their own narratives and guided me along Lily’s path to find love again. I just wish I could have read more of each character’s backgrounds.Sue Monk Kidd's debut novel is beautiful no doubt. The Secret Life of Bees is a unique southern tale that will capture your heart.

  • Megan Baxter
    2019-03-03 18:03

    Is it ever not going to be problematic to have a book about a young white girl finding nurturing black mother figures in the South? It's not the book itself, necessarily, just the part where this is practically a genre unto itself, and I haven't run into any books (certainly not with the stature of this one) about the young girl in the South who is black, and her experiences. Also the part where the black women are mostly there to mother the young white girl, and all of their differences tend to come down to eccentricities. This is probably unduly harsh. The Secret Life of Bees is not a bad book - it's an easy read, it's a comfortable read, even in its portrayal of the impact of the Civil Rights movement on a small town that is interacting with it mostly through the media. It's just the overall impact of the stories authors are choosing to tell, that publishers are choosing to publish, and readers are choosing to read.Does someone have something to recommend to me that breaks out of this mold?Lily is the only daughter of an unloving white man. Her mother died when she was very little. She and Rosaleen, the black woman who raised her after her mother's death hit the road after an altercation between Rosaleen and the biggest racists in town. They find themselves in a small town in South Carolina, where they are both more or less adopted into the family of three black women, sisters, August, June, and May. Lily struggles with how to tell the sisters who she really is and why she's there, as well as anger and guilt about her mother and father. Meanwhile, the sisters nurture. August takes care of the bees and takes Lily under her wing. June, a school teacher, refuses to marry the man she loves. May feels the horrors of the world far too sharply. Other black women come to their house for their own brand of syncretic worship, focusing around a statue of a Black Virgin Mary. This book deals with some fairly difficult issues, so why do I categorize it as not particularly challenging? It deals with abuse, suicide, racism, and violence. None of those are easy topics. And yet, this book never reached out and grabbed me by the throat. It seemed to dance over these topics, not ignoring them, but not fully engaging with them either. It lacked anger, and some of these issues deserved some anger. (There were angry characters, but they were mediated by the nurturing aura of the book itself.)I think part of the problem was that every time I picked it up, I kept pulling away from it, wondering why we so often seem to need this mediating figure of the young white woman in order to tell these stories. Wondering where the books about just August, and June, and May were. Or Rosaleen. Are they not being written? Or not published? Or am I just entirely oblivious to a bunch of books I should be reading?Crossposted to Smorgasbook

  • Elaine
    2019-03-08 18:46

    A coming-to-age novel set in South Carolina at the height of desegregation. Lily is a lovable pre-teen who'd grown up believing she killed her mother (accidentally) and is trying to escape a brutal, abusive father. Filled with a cast of eccentric characters, Lily runs away with Rosaleen, a black servant, and finds herself in a beekeeper's sanctuary, where secrets come spilling out of the closet for a cymbal-clashing ending. Although rendered very close to the voice of a believable pre-teen, the prose is riddled with cliches and mawkishness and characters who liked to stare off into the distance whenever a dramatic moment came to pass. Here's an example, "The music sheplayed was the kind that sawed through you, cutting into the secret chambers of your heart and setting the sadness free." The father was a cardboard one-dimensional ogre, with no redeeming feature whatsoever. The most rewarding sections were the dialogues, and the characters of the Daughters of Mary as well as the beekeeper, August and her sisters (named after the summer months, June and May) as well as Lily's flirtation with the black young male helper, Zach Taylor. There were also great dramatic moments, when the stories surrounding desegregation rose to the fore (although the style tended to underdramatize these sections). Honestly, it's hard to fathom how this book was nominated for the Orange Prize, and an excerpt was selected as a Best American Short Story, as well as becoming a phenomenal number one bestseller.

  • XxTainaxX
    2019-02-22 17:56

    I really enjoyed the story about a growing girl finding her way during a difficult time in history to the family she was always meant to have. The story is set during the early desegregation period in the US when hostility and resistance to change was the norm. Lily is trying to uncover her mother's past while dealing with some recent trouble with her caretaker Rosaleen. In her quest, she meets three sisters. August, the wise matriarch of the lot. June, the skeptical one. May, the sweet but troubled one. The sisters take her and Rosaleen into their home, becoming more to this girl than you could imagine: a family of choice. There's a controversial love interest with a boy named Zack who is black, Lily being white. Their little moments are sweet and tender. Lily's relationship with her father is complex and sad. She develops beautifully in the story in ways that are very clear to the reader. The plot was interesting and the writer clearly did her research. All in all a great read and a good break from my romances. Safety: Nothing overtly sexual between Lily and Zack. Only kisses. No rape. Yes to physical/emotional abuse.

  • A.K.
    2019-02-22 19:36

    Read this in a couple of hours while I was babysitting. Not always a good sign; particularly when the reason I am looking for material is that the only other house options are natural health and yoga magazines, as I am a dedicated chainsmoker with terrible posture. Some of the ideas patly blurbed on the back seemed compelling. Mary definitely wasn't a WASP, so that's interesting; beekeeping is fertile for extended metaphor; and tough runaway girlchildren are a favorite, chixploitation or no. But while I was looking for short and sweet plot, this book knocked me about the head with near-narcoleptic tropes about culture, color, gender and otherness. Did you know that every poor white in the south beats their children and/or is criminally negligent? Did you know that black folk are all like, all proud and exotic, even the womenfolk?!? Did you know this is bullshit, Sue Monk Kidd? It is embarassing for me that this book sees more media attention than the literal hundreds of books in/about the South written with clarity, subtlety, and brutal grace. Some Flannery fucken O'Connor oughta burn that vaseline right off the lens. Growing Up in the South: An Anthology of Modern Southern Literature is an even easier start.

  • Red
    2019-03-21 00:54

    I'm picking this up again out of desperation. it's pretty bad. the pacing is terrible, the characterization is spotty, cliched, and rarely believeable, and there is so much shlocky dime-store 'wisdom' stuffed into the pages that it's a wonder anything ever actually happens, plot-wise. writing from the point of view of a child or adolescent is hard, and authors rarely get it right. this book certainly doesn't. oh god, and the epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter are so hit-you-over-the-head-obvious and at the same time so lacking in poetry that I dread the title pages of each chapter. oh my god, really, you're comparing the queen bee to Mary? and linking it to the motherless child at the heart of the story? holy shit, how subtle and original. all that being said, the fact that the story revolves around strong, independent female characters is its saving grace. when the older women tells the child that she loved a man once, but loved her freedom more - well, that was the best line in the book. it's still cliche, but I'd rather read crappy cliches about strong women than crappy cliches about, I don't know, women shopping for shoes and whining about men. or crappy cliches about men who are the center of the universe and women who simply revolve around them, washing their clothes and exclaiming over the size of their dicks.

  • Maggie Stiefvater
    2019-03-20 00:47

    I hesitantly picked up this book based upon numerous recommendations; frankly, the back of the book blurb just didn't sound like my sort of thing. Historical coming of age drama type stuff is just not me. That said, however, Sue Monk Kidd completely made me change my tune. While this book isn't perfect, I was completely enchanted by the writing, the pacing, and the careful observation. As a Virginian well-versed in humid Southern summers and Southern cooking, I thought Kidd did a fantastic job of evoking that feeling of sweat trickling slowly between your boobs. Another point of interest is the way that feminism is worked into the novel. I'm not a huge fan of I-am-woman-hear-me-roar overt girlpower in film or literature, but this book is populated with female characters and about eight different kinds of love and strength and mystery. Throw in some very well done race issues, and I was willing to forgive the almost insanely inappropriately happy ending. Do I have nitpicks with the book? Absolutely. Will I read it again? Absolutely. This is a book ripe for book group meetings. ***wondering why all my reviews are five stars? Because I'm only reviewing my favorite books -- not every book I read. Consider a novel's presence on my Goodreads bookshelf as a hearty endorsement. I can't believe I just said "hearty." It sounds like a stew.***

  • tee
    2019-02-26 20:58

    I actually liked this book. I only read the reviews afterwards and noticed that a lot of people complain of the stereotyping, and embarrassingly - I was so in love with the characters that it didn't phase me, I'm ashamed. I did notice that the African Americans were all painted as stereotypes but I figured that the author was just using a voice that kept with the times - back then, that's how everything was seen. But now I feel a little conflicted because god damn, I hate stereotypes and I'm usually the first to jump up-and-down and shake my fist.I loved Lily, I have been struggling to actually like a protagonist in a novel for a long while, so was pleased when I took to Lily immediately. I think that it was a real honest, true voice of a fourteen year old, you could feel the wide-eyed wonder, the naivity and the angst without it being irritating. I loved how she grew and learned; gained courage and wisdom; without the morals of the story beating you over the head. I absolutely loved August and Rosaleen. To be honest, I loved them all. I was even rooting for Zach and Lily to hook up - it made me feel like a teenage reader again, in parts.I loved the feminist undertones, these women were strong, capable and gutsy. I love the part where August explains why she never married. I loved how the women's spirituality was dealt with an off-beat 'religion' and even though I'm atheist - I still thought that the way that these women had made sense of the world, was empowering and beautiful. It was rather pagan; peaceful yet powerful. I found most of the book to be highly original and kept reading not only because of Kidd's great use of words, but because I really have not ever read anything like this before! I love unique.I loved the storyline, I loved the beautiful prose. I think too, that I was so fascinated by this book because it is so far removed from my life and what I know of the world. Being Australian, reading about the South (from Kidd's perspective anyway, taking on board the fact that she stereotypes) was a page-turner for me. Some of the passages in the book were really quite stunning. Here's my favourite paragraph. Every human being on the face of the earth has a steel plate in his head, but if you lie down now and then and get still as you can, it will slide open like evelator doors, letting in all the secret thoughts that have been standing around so patiently, pushing the button for a ride to the top. The real troubles in life happen when those hidden doors stay closed for too long.

  • Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
    2019-03-21 16:41

    4 ½ stars. They say you can’t judge a book by its cover. Weird, lately that’s what I’ve been doing and it’s working... All the hype brought me to it; the cover and title hooked me. A great story chock full of symbolism, I suppose it’s like an adult Aesop’s fable featuring bees. Timeline early sixties, place racially-charged South Carolina, it’s an inspirational and decidedly feminist book with an interesting touch of spiritualism. The courageous story of a young girl’s escape from a bitter and abusive father, followed by her quest to find out anything she can about the mother that abandoned her. In the process she rescues her only friend, a feisty black woman also on the run. Its main theme is abuse and abandonment but it also tackles racism - more tastefully than most - by moving beyond stereo-types. The majority of the characters are multifaceted - virtuous and flawed - refreshingly human. All and all I’d highly recommend it. Indulge yourself and enjoy. Footnote: Like all gardening fanatics, I’m a sucker for bees; loved their inclusion and had great fun with all the symbolism surrounding queen bees, hives and honey. A few favorites:"Above all, send the bees love. Every little thing wants to be loved""It takes a bee 10 million trips to collect enough nectar to make 1 pound of honey"“I watched their wings shining like bits of chrome in the dark and felt the longing build in my chest. 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”

  • Shayantani Das
    2019-02-20 23:43

    This book would be absolutely amazing, if there was anythingingenious about this book. It’s a story about Lily, a 14 year old in the racist American South. Sounds familiar? There is more. She is motherless, and is laden with guilt over having accidently killed her mother. Her father is evil. No really, like pure, unadulterated evil , with no redeeming qualities or anything. And, SURPRISE!!! He is abusive! And tortures Lily. Never saw that one coming! Who was persistently screamingCliché!!! all the time I was reading the book? Oh yeah, must be the story!Except for the 3 May sisters, all the characters had less life than carbon cut outs. Lily sounds nothing like a 14 year old. She is either drowned in sadness over her mother or is busy checking out the hot Zack guy. There was something highly unrealistic about her character. It was like the author knew about aspects people like in a character, and just added them up. Like different pieces of separate puzzles, forcefully assembled together.The very same goes for the story. Oh so convenient circumstances, highly predictable chain of events, and then a rushed and dressed up climax. Such a waste of a beautiful prose, and bee allegories.I suspect that even the bees would be offended. And so would black Mary. If you just kick out lily, and events relating to her then the novel would be absolutely enchanting. Why is a happily ever after absolutely necessary even at the cost of a realistic plot? Why couldn’t the author use her brain instead of being so keen to please the reader?A very very disappointing novel.2.5 stars Ps: Although this has nothing to do with the book’s real story, I must mention that I find bees very interesting. It was in 10th grade that I learnt about the “waggle dance” method that the bees used for communicating. So I found the tid bit of information about bees before every chapter. The bee song was amazing too! But no extra star for those.

  • Maciek
    2019-03-08 21:55

    The Secret Life of Bees is a cliched soap opera, the sort of book that would provoke rave responses at book clubs composed of mostly bored housewifes. It's a pretty formulaic tale of a young, southern girl whose daddy abuses her, so she decides to run away with her black servant and find solace in an unlikely place.The story is a reversal of Huck Finn's tale, which results in a schmaltzy schlock. The novel is full of stereotypes - 99% of the white male figures are abusive bastards, the girl's father is an ogre with no redeeming features. As if to get back at all males, all women in this novel are presented as inherently good. There are about 8 mother figures in this book. This may be the reason why the novel is so popular with so many sunday feminist that scour the depths of the internet.As the novel was written by a white woman, there portrayal of black people is as patronizing as possible. In TSLOB, black people are not people - they are accesories for the white folk to find their way. The author doesn't use any sort of vernacular or vocabulary that would suggest that a black person is speaking (after all, we are talking about the 60's south). We see black people as black only because of their neverending good actions. There are of course the obligatory magical negro figures, the beekeping sisters our heroine reaches early in the novel - they have nothing else to do but sport sage-like advice about the world, bees and honey.Do you by any chances wonder about the premise? After all, Lily escapes to find the truth about her mother whom she most propably killed, as she remembers holding a gun and a BANG! If you're reading the novel to find out, you might as well give up - Lily's mother is killed off like Bambi's mom to start the story, which turns out to be a patronizing tale about racism. Well, the Civil Rights Movement is an important theme in the novel, and Sue Monk Kidd certainly forces the reader to wish good for these poor black women. However, she makes a mistake of toning down the racist hate - in her world, a group of teenagers of opposite sexes and races driving around the town is never noticed; in real world they would be immediately violently separated, she sent off home and he at best badly beaten. A female black servant responds strongly to three antagonizing white males and even spits on their shoes - such herocism works good in movies, but most propably would have ended less than well for the woman.. All racism comes from the white, of course; there is no single black person opposing to the white girl living with three black women and being in a relationship with a young black man. It works both ways, something which Sue Monk Kidd seems to have forgotten; she fondly remembers Marthin Luther King, but is fast to forget about Malcolm X.Everything here is washed down; there is absolutely zero ambiguity. Black-good, White-bad. Lily escapes from her own father to be accepted without question by the black women; and in the end she won't care much about her own mother because she found new mother figures, all black of course. And her black boyfriend goes to enroll into a white school. Was that even possible back then? According to the author it was.The white priest kicks the girl out of church because she led in a black servant, but don't worry about the religious future of the precious infant - there is a Black Madonna, and her black daughters who are more than willing to allow Lily join their club. Gah!I can see how this book will provoke lots of discussion about its "Interesting topic" (There are classroom questions in my copy!) but it's just shallow, empty and overrated to the max. The story has been done several times and to a much better result - think Harper Lee and Mark Twain.Steer clear of the "modern classic" - the bee isn't buzzworthy.

  • Leah
    2019-03-13 16:44

    Though The Secret Life of Bees has the potential to be a heartwarming little novel, it falls flat on many accounts. The characters often feel unoriginal, including a sassy black nanny; a smart, yet under-valued girl who dreams of being a writer; and a roughneck southern farmer. While cliches exist because of a bit of truth in them, I found nothing truthful in the majority of these characters, whose actions,including the two main inciting incidents of the novel, seem completed unmovitated and out of character.The author's voice is ungainly and often uneven, with the narrator sounding at various times 9, 14, and 45 (turns out she's narrating from her 1-year old perspective). The timeline and pacing of the novel suffers similarly. I often felt I was led to believe that several months or at least weeks had passed when the narrator mentioned it had been 3 or 4 days. While the small details of beekeeping and the black Madonna keep the book from being totally a flop, it would have benefitted from a better narrative point of view: having it being told in the moment or from a further distance than 3 months past. All in all, a middling work.

  • Hannah
    2019-03-03 20:46

    Fourteen year old, Lily Owens has only ever wanted to be loved by her parents. With a less than loving father, it seems the only hope she will have is to cling to the memory of her deceased mother in hopes that she had loved Lily before her death. When Lily's father T. Ray, tells her that her mother left her behind when she was younger, that is all the excuse she needs to run away from him and his terrible and hurtful lies. Set in the 1960s, during the Civil Rights Movement, Rosaleen, the housekeeper, is now allowed to vote. Unfortunately on her way to town, she finds herself in jail. Lily cannot leave her behind to be beaten, or worse killed, by the men that put her in there, so she devises a plan to break her out and bring her along on her new adventure to find out more about her mother. When they reach Tiburon, South Carolina, they meet the Boatwright family. The three African-American sisters, August, June, and May all live in a pink house and keep bees. They sell the honey around town and pray to Our Lady of Chains. Needless to say, the Boatwright sisters are unique in every way and as they welcome Lily and Rosaleen into their lives, Lily begins to feel as if she never wants to leave. She knew from a picture of the Black Madonna that she found in her mother's belongings that matched the same picture on the honey jars that August sold around town, that she was in the exact spot she needed to be to find out more about her mother. But Lily was keeping secrets. She had lied to everyone that was quickly becoming important to her about why she was there. Only the truth would produce the raw facts about everything she has always wondered about. This was a heartwarming story about people learning the meaning of love and how to love. I really enjoyed the strong, independent, female characters and watching them learn and grow the more I read. The story has a nice flow and was enjoyable throughout, and as a bonus, I did learn some interesting facts about bees!

  • Sandi
    2019-03-19 23:49

    To me, the difference between is a good book and a great book is whether you have to suspend disbelief or whether you just believe. I became curious about “The Secret Life of Bees” when I saw the preview for the upcoming movie in the theater. It looked mildly interesting and overly sugary. You know, one of those feel good stories about people coming together despite racial differences. It’s been done a gazillion times and the stories are usually trite and maudlin. (I will say that the movie looks like it’s going to fit into the trite and maudlin mold.) Imagine my surprise when I found the novel to be so great. It’s absolutely beautiful. It exceeds every expectation. I had to force myself to put it down to do the things I needed to do. I didn’t need to suspend disbelief; I believed.I think this is a book for every girl and woman to read. I’d much rather see teen girls reading this than most of the books I see on the young adult shelves. It’s one of those books that lifts you up and makes you believe in ideals. I didn’t think anyone was writing books like this anymore. Fortunately, I was wrong.One more thing; having read the book, I have absolutely no desire to see the movie. I cannot imagine Dakota Fanning as Lily and all those famous actresses as Rosaleen and the Boatwright sisters. And, I cannot imagine the movie adding anything to the richness of the novel. Maybe I’ll be wrong, but I’ll never know.

  • Laure
    2019-02-22 20:44

    4.5 stars, such a heart warming book.

  • UniquelyMoi ~ BlithelyBookish
    2019-02-27 16:50

    While blood might be thicker than water, sometimes it's the family we choose to belong to whose ties can't be broken.The story revolves around 14 year old Lily Owens and is at times, dark. But as Lily tries to make sense of her life and tries to find another way, she meets some amazingly strong and loving women who show her what a real family is about.The Secret Life of Bees is a well written story that flows seamlessly. The characters are people who charm their way into your heart with their quirky personalities, their deep sense of honor, traditions and values, and the keen ability to see the truth in all things.

  • Nikki
    2019-02-21 19:57

    One of my favorites. I didn't want to put it away and was sad when it was over.

  • Rebecca Foster
    2019-03-11 17:52

    It’s hard to believe that it was 15 years ago that this debut novel was an It book, and harder to believe that I’d never managed to get around to it until now. However, in some ways it felt familiar because I’d read a fair bit of background via Kidd’s chapter in Why We Write about Ourselves and Traveling with Pomegranates, in which she and her daughter explored the Black Madonna tradition in Europe.This novel represents the joining of fairly unusual elements you wouldn’t expect to find in fiction – beekeeping and the divine feminine – with more well-trodden fictional territory: the Civil Rights movement in the South in the 1960s, unhappy family relationships, secrets, and a teenage girl’s coming of age. Fourteen-year-old Lily is an appealing narrator who runs away from her memories of her mother’s death and her angry father, peach farmer T. Ray. You can’t help but fall in love with the rest of her new African-American, matriarchal clan: their housekeeper, Rosaleen, who scandalizes the town by registering to vote; the bee-keeping Boatwright sisters, August, June, and May, who give Lily and Rosaleen refuge when they skip town; and the rest of the Daughters of Mary who join them in devotion to Jesus’ mother.Although I think you can tell this is a first novel – it crams in so many happenings and so many emotional ups and downs – it’s still a charming story that draws you into the brutal heat of a South Carolina summer and keeps you hoping Lily will forgive herself and slip into the rhythms of a purposeful life of sisterhood.Some lines I loved:“The world will give you that once in a while, a brief timeout; the boxing bell rings and you go to your corner, where somebody dabs mercy on your beat-up life.”“The way people lived their lives, settling for grits and cow shit, made me sick.”August’s advice: “Don’t sort-of-maybe live, but live like you’re going all out, like you’re not afraid.”“once you know the truth, you can’t ever go back and pick up your suitcase of lies. Heavier or not, the truth is yours now.”A shortened version of this review was originally published on my blog, Bookish Beck.

  • Will Byrnes
    2019-03-02 22:48

    This is a lovely tale. In reading it is easy to imagine an A-list director seizing on the ample imagery to the crescendos of a John Williams orchestration. It tells of Lily, a South Carolina 14 year old. She lives, unhappily, with her crusty father T. Ray and Rosaleen, the woman who raised her after her mother died when Lily was 4. It is a coming of age tale set against the civil rights issues of the early 60’s. It is certainly no coincidence that Lily (as in white) spends most of the book in the company of earth-mother black people. Rosaleen attempts to register to vote and winds up in jail. Lily manages to spring her. Lily has always maintained fantasies about her dead mother, and wants to find out more about her. She uses clues found in materials left by her mother and winds up in another South Carolina town, in the home of the Calendar Sisters (August, June and May). There she learns about bee-keeping and mothering. There are mothering images aplenty here. The calendar sisters have evolved a personal religion around Mary, using a masthead image of the Virgin as an icon. Each chapter begins with a quote about bees. Each of these quotes tells of the substance of the following chapter. Lily learns the truth about her mother, becomes aware of her new sexuality, and grows up. There are flaws here as well as a richness of imagery. The good people (Rosalee and August in particular) are far too perfect, and we are expected to believe that Lily has no visceral hesitation or consciousness about the social implications about her attraction to Zach. It is a very goopy book. That said, I enjoyed it and got teary at the expected places. It will make a very lush and goopy movie. I could well-envision the cinematography and rousing score. It could go either way, though, and if underfinanced could wind up as a chick-flick TV-movie.

  • Larry Bassett
    2019-03-06 18:42

    This is a book that just about every woman (and quite a few men) has read. So it is my turn. As is often the case when I am coming late to a best seller, I really don’t know much about the book other than it is a must read. The first allusion is to bees swarming and death. We have the maternal black woman substituting for the dead white mother caring for the plain young girl with a much to be desired father. The young girl, Lily, has an imagination from the get go. I used to have daydreams in which she was white and married to T. Ray, and became my real mother. Other times I was a Negro orphan she found in a cornfield and adopted. Once in a while I had us living in a foreign country like New York, where she could adopt me and we could both stay our natural color. The Secret Life of Bees is not a complicated book. It just tells you straight out what you need to know to get the message. I hadn’t been out to the hives before, so to start off she gave me a lesson in what she called “bee yard etiquette.” She reminded me that the world was really one big bee yard, and the same rules worked fine in both places: Don’t be afraid, as no life-loving bee wants to sting you. Still, don’t be an idiot; wear long sleeves and long pants. Don’t swat. Don’t even think about swatting. If you feel angry, whistle. Anger agitates, while whistling melts a bee’s temper. Act like you know what you’re doing, even if you don’t. Above all, send the bees love. Every little thing wants to be loved.What is it that people say? This is not rocket science? I read so many books where the message is not clear to me. My reaction to this plain message is with some anxiety. Maybe it is not quite so simple? And, if it is so simple, what is the point of finding simple in a complex world? Must be a trick.The story is set in the South with the background of the civil rights movement in the early 1960s. History was being made and some of it is recorded inThe Secret Life of Bees .“I’ll write this all down for you, [Lily] said. “I’ll put it in a story.”I don’t know if that’s what he wanted to ask me, but it’s something everybody wants – for someone to see the hurt done to them and set it down like it matters. Black history and women’s history are woven into the story. The story is enlarged by the inclusion of that history and lore.Lily learns who the Black Madonna is almost immediately upon arriving in Tiburon, but this knowledge only involves her in greater mysteries. The figure of Mary that August Boatwright and her sisters call Our Lady of Chains was originally a masthead, washed up, according to their legend, from an unknown ship near a plantation on the South Carolina coast in the days of slavery. It communicated in secret with the slaves of the plantation, exhorting them to furtive acts of flight and resistance. Amazingly, under its own power it repeatedly escaped the chains the plantation owner used to lock it in the barn. Shrouded in myth, Our Lady of Chains comes to represent, over the course of the novel, the mysteries Kidd portrays as the most powerful of all: those of the human heart. Source: People who regularly read my reviews know that I am not keen on religion most of the time. I’d normally just as soon leave it out of a story unless it’s legitimately the bad guy. Well, this story has some folk religion and I don’t mind it too much. Probably because it is folk rather than anything high church. There is May’s Wailing Wall. There is the black Madonna. There is everything to do with Mary Day and the Daughters of Mary, the traditions of the women. Black folk religion is so down to earth that I just mostly let it slip on by. It is just a feeling and I am not perfect in my spiritual anathema. To tell you the truth, I am probably marking this book down a half star due to the relatively large quantity of folksy religion. The story would be missing something important if you took it out. But don’t expect me to sit in church with a prayer fan too long!There is a fast current just below the gentle surface of this book. I think that this is strangely a book more about the Malcolm X’s than about the Uncle Tom’s.He stared at the water. “Sometimes, Lily, I’m so angry I wanna kill something.” Sometimes I think that if I would have been black, I would not have lived through the 1960s. I would have been too angry and would have been a black revolutionary rather than a white pacifist. This book reminds me of that.My rule is that if a book makes me cry, it gets five stars. And these are tears. (Not running down my cheeks but definitely dampness.) But you remember I am going to take off a half star due to the overdone religion. So, now what? Well, this is definitely a rounding up type of book so the five wins out in the end. My daughter is eleven. I should probably keep this book around so she can read about fourteen year old Lily in a few years.