The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

index.aspxSet in the pinewoods of South Carolina in the mid 1960s, The Secret Life of Bees envelopes you like a sultry summer day. You can hear the bees humming and smell the scent of honey and jessamine flowers. You can feel the warmth rising from the sun-baked grass and see the heat lightning flash in the darkening sky.

Having lived all my life in the Carolinas, I felt a rush of recognition as I read this book. Though very much bound to its time and place, this is also a universal story. It is about finding your first love, and about hating and loving your parents. It is about the divide between black people and white people that I too observed with uncomprehending eyes in 1964. It is about missing your mother so badly you think you will die, and then finding her in the hearts of people who have been there all along, just waiting for you to love them back.

It is a story about forgiveness. The main person fourteen-year-old Lily cannot forgive is herself. She thinks she is the reason for her mother’s death, for the loss of everything that made life worth living for her.

Bees are living inside the walls of her house, bees that fly around her room in the middle of the night. They inspire her to break free of her abusive father, T. Ray, as her mother, Deborah, also tried to do. A place name scrawled on the back of a mysterious picture that once belonged to her mother beckons to Lily, and she decides to go there, taking along her black housemaid and surrogate mother, Rosaleen, who is in trouble with the town’s worst racists for trying to vote. What she finds there is a place where she can heal, piece together the mystery of how her mother died, accept, and forgive.

Lily’s story is interwoven with images from the lives of bees, how devoted they are to their tireless work, how lost and forlorn they are if their queen dies. In the background, the vine-draped Carolina woods exhale their warm scent, inviting and a little sinister.

This is a story that will touch you in very deep ways. As Lily says, “I realized it for the first time in my life:  there is nothing but mystery in the world, how it hides behind the fabric of our poor, browbeat days, shining brightly, and we don’t even know it.” Sue Monk Kidd’s vivid images and characters opened up that mystery for me, reminding me of things I have always known deep down—and that is exactly what every good story should do.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

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2 Responses to “The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd”

  1. sandy hahn Says:

    If you did not see this movie……get it

  2. Sharon S. Says:

    Wow, that’s great–I didn’t even know there was a movie. Is it as good as the book?

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