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 black ‘stand-in mother’, Rosaleen, insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily decides to spring them both free. They escape to Tiburon, South Carolina – a town that holds the secret to her mother’s past.
Taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters, Lily is introduced to their mesmerizing world of bees and honey. And there Lily starts a journey as much about her understanding of the world as about the mystery surrounding her mother.
The Secret Life of Bees is a book that will stay with me for a long time, beautifully written, poignant and insightful the coming of age story of Lily Owens was warm and sweet just like a big pot of honey.
Lily is a young teenager who lives with her father T-Ray, her mother died when she was around four years and she has a feeling it was all her fault. T-Ray emotionally and sometimes physically abuses Lily, the day he tells her that it was her fault her mother left she packs a bag and runs away. At the same time her house maid Rosaleen gets into trouble with a few racists in town, gets beaten up and taken to prison, Lily helps her escape and their adventure begins. Lily’s one connection to her mother is an old photo of her on a bee farm so Lily heads out to Tiburon to find the answers from her past that she is desperate to know.
At the farm she is greeted by three unmarried black ladies; May, June and August. They take Lily and Rosaleen in after Lily tells a few white lies on why they are there. The sister’s know something is not quite right with Lily’s story but never the less they take them in and teach Lily how to be a bee keeper. Throughout the novel there are many ups and downs, as heart-warming as the story may be, there is a tinge of sadness and melancholy throughout. The fact Lily was abused by her father, June was jilted at the alter, May isn’t quite right in the head because of a devastating death in the family and many characters are targeted because of the colour of their skin. The book brings up a lot of sensitive and debatable subjects which makes it very insightful. How people’s mindsets were back in 1960’s America was shocking, I was really surprised when a policeman told Lily to leave the house as is wasn’t “right” for a young white girl to be living in a house full of black women, even though these women treated her a darn sight better than her own white father did.
For Lily, living with the sisters eventually gives her a purpose to life and not only that but she feels loved and cared for which she never got as a child from either parent. It takes a long time for Lily to find the answers she is looking for and to open-up and when she does it’s not what she had expected. I don’t want to say this book is slow, but things unravel slowly and steadily like honey dripping from a spoon, there are a few unexpected turns and I felt like it was a unique coming of age story.
What I also loved about this novel was the facts about bees and bee keeping, I had no idea how clever bees are and what it is like to work as a bee keeper. Each chapter started with a little fact about bees and I just adored that.
This novel gives the true meaning to love, friendship, womanhood and family it is a charming and touching story. The descriptions throughout are beautifully written and I highly recommend this book and I will definitely be reading more of Sue Monk Kidd’s novels.
Have you read The Secret Life of Bees? What did you think about it? Has anyone seen the film, should I watch it? Thanks for reading Katie x