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The Secret Life of Bees [Paperback]

Sue Monk Kidd
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (779 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 28 2003
The multimillion-copy–bestselling first novel by the author of The Invention of Wings, coming from Viking in January 2014

The Secret Life of Bees was a New York Times bestseller for more than two and a half years, a Good Morning America “Read This” Book Club pick and was made into an award-winning film starring Dakota Fanning, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, and Alicia Keys. A coming of age tale set in South Carolina in 1964, The Secret Life of Bees will appeal to fans of Kathryn Stockett’s The Help and Beth Hoffman’s Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, and 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 town’s most vicious 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 continue to share and pass on to their daughters for years to come.


Frequently Bought Together

The Secret Life of Bees + The Invention of Wings: A Novel + The Rosie Project
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Product Description

From Amazon

In Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees, 14-year-old Lily Owen, neglected by her father and isolated on their Georgia peach farm, spends hours imagining a blissful infancy when she was loved and nurtured by her mother, Deborah, whom she barely remembers. These consoling fantasies are her heart's answer to the family story that as a child, in unclear circumstances, Lily accidentally shot and killed her mother. All Lily has left of Deborah is a strange image of a Black Madonna, with the words "Tiburon, South Carolina" scrawled on the back. The search for a mother, and the need to mother oneself, are crucial elements in this well-written coming-of-age story set in the early 1960s against a background of racial violence and unrest. When Lily's beloved nanny, Rosaleen, manages to insult a group of angry white men on her way to register to vote and has to skip town, Lily takes the opportunity to go with her, fleeing to the only place she can think of--Tiburon, South Carolina--determined to find out more about her dead mother. Although the plot threads are too neatly trimmed, The Secret Life of Bees is a carefully crafted novel with an inspired depiction of character. The legend of the Black Madonna and the brave, kind, peculiar women who perpetuate Lily's story dominate the second half of the book, placing Kidd's debut novel squarely in the honored tradition of the Southern Gothic. --Regina Marler --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

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. It's 1964, the year of the Civil Rights Act, in Sylvan, S.C. Fourteen-year-old Lily is on the lam with motherly servant Rosaleen, fleeing both Lily's abusive father T. Ray and the police who battered Rosaleen for defending her new right to vote. 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. Ray. Among her mother's possessions, Lily finds a picture of a black Virgin Mary with "Tiburon, S.C." on the back so, blindly, she and Rosaleen head there. It turns out that the town is headquarters of Black Madonna Honey, produced by three middle-aged black sisters, August, June and May Boatwright. 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. But August, clearly the queen bee of the Boatwrights, keeps asking Lily searching questions. Faced with so ideally maternal a figure as August, most girls would babble uncontrollably. But Lily is a budding writer, desperate to connect yet fiercely protective of her secret interior life. 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. (Jan. 28)Forecast: Blurbs from an impressive lineup of women writers Anita Shreve, Susan Isaacs, Ursula Hegi pitch this book straight at its intended readership. It's hard to say whether confusion with the similarly titled Bee Season will hurt or help sales, but a 10-city author tour should help distinguish Kidd. Film rights have been optioned and foreign rights sold in England and France.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
At night I would lie in bed and watch the show, how bees squeezed through the cracks of my bedroom wall and flew circles around the room, making that propeller sound, a high-pitched zzzzzz that hummed along my skin. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two Thumbs Up, Universally Great Jan. 6 2004
Format:Paperback
My wife and I read books together and compare our opinions. As the unofficial secretary in our democratic household, I then try to encapsulate our combined opinions into one review. Like most couples, there are many things we don't agree on. When this occurs my wife attributes it to her being right and me being stupid. This is often the case with books - there will be a book I can't wait to discuss because I love it, only to discover my wife hates it. This is not always the case. There are many books that we agree upon as being good or enjoyable. However, there are very few that we agree upon as being universally great. In fact, our "great" list is limited to three in the past year (obviously not three in all time, that would be an indication of a marriage that is heavily on the rocks). SECRET LIFE OF BEES by SUE MONK KIDD (along with THE DA VINCI CODE and MY FRACTURED LIFE) is one of our three books we recommend as being universally great. If my wife and I can agree on it, then rest assured men and women of all ages and backgrounds will be able to relate and enjoy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sweet May 19 2005
By Monica
Format:Paperback
I have made it a point of reading inspirational books which can help me have a positive outlook to life. Though it reads like a non-fictional memoir, "The Secret Life of Bees" even though it is fictitious, has been tremendously helpful to me as an inspirational book. It is brilliantly written with amazing details and beautiful settings. It showed the unique creativity of the author. This hard to put down book, is sure to capture your heart with its imagery.
Sue Monk Kidd does a brilliant job of laying out a storyline that is not only believable, but is interesting as well. I could not put this book down. Lily Owens will capture your heart. Despite the abuse from the hands of her father T. Ray, she turned out to be a survivor. Sharing her destiny with the beekeeping sisters, and their Black Madonna honey, she finally attains some emotional security in her life. May, one of the sisters is someone who inspires. This is a novel for young adults and adults, because at 14, Lily fights with the hazy memory of her dead mother whom she misses and longs for in rural South Carolina of 1964, where racial violence is inescapable. She finds solace in her surrogate mother - the family's black servant, Rosaleen, who later becomes a victim of racial hatred. It moved on to the escape of Lily and Rosaleen, the search for the identity of Lily's mother's identity and the quest for a sense of belonging in her life This journey led Lily and Rosaleen into the lives of three strange but alluring beekeepers who set Lily who helped Lily to grow up and be at peace with her family and its history.
The story is told through Lily's eyes, mouth, mind and heart, and as such it is deep, hilarious and inspiring.
Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The book to read this season Dec 29 2004
Format:Paperback
A motherless girl who sets off on her own to find a mother, it doesn't matter to Lily the color or age, and discovers herself and more than she was expecting. "In the photo by my bed my mother is perptually smiling on me. I guess I have forgiven us both, although sometimes in the night my dreams will take me back to the sadness, and I have to wake up and forgive us again." She is now fourteen and was only four when her mother tragically died in the heat of rage.
This story about maternal loss and betrayal, guilt and forgiveness, has a wisdom about life, entwined with the transforming power of love. Her harsh father had made her believe that she was responsible for the death of her mother. My older sister, Evelyn, felt guilty all her life about going to visit a neighbor after she'd awakened from a nap (while our mother was working in a garden), and the boy older than she woke to an empty house and accidentally was killed. Evelyn always thought that if she'd stayed, the accident would not have happened.
That haunting tragedy happened a few years before my birth so I know only Evelyn's childhood remembrance and how much she suffered for being just a little girl. It's possible that she was the same age as Lily when her mother was killed.
This being a fictional account, she could forgive her mother for leaving her alone, seeking for what was taken from her. She longs for and goes on a search to find the single thing her heart longs for. I, on the other hand, could not forgive -- or forget how very helpless a young girl feels as she struggles for some kind of closure to her grief. This is truly a forgiving story for the motherless child in all of us.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A touching story Jan. 8 2014
Format:Paperback
I have made it a point of reading inspirational books which can help me have a positive outlook to life. Though it reads like a non-fictional memoir, "The Secret Life of Bees" even though it is fictitious, has been tremendously helpful to me as an inspirational book. It is brilliantly written with amazing details and beautiful settings. It showed the unique creativity of the author. This hard to put down book, is sure to capture your heart with its imagery.

Sue Monk Kidd does a brilliant job of laying out a storyline that is not only believable, but is interesting as well. I could not put this book down. Lily Owens will capture your heart. Despite the abuse from the hands of her father T. Ray, she turned out to be a survivor. Sharing her destiny with the beekeeping sisters, and their Black Madonna honey, she finally attains some emotional security in her life. May, one of the sisters is someone who inspires. This is a novel for young adults and adults, because at 14, Lily fights with the hazy memory of her dead mother whom she misses and longs for in rural South Carolina of 1964, where racial violence is inescapable. She finds solace in her surrogate mother - the family's black servant, Rosaleen, who later becomes a victim of racial hatred. It moved on to the escape of Lily and Rosaleen, the search for the identity of Lily's mother's identity and the quest for a sense of belonging in her life This journey led Lily and Rosaleen into the lives of three strange but alluring beekeepers who set Lily who helped Lily to grow up and be at peace with her family and its history.

The story is told through Lily's eyes, mouth, mind and heart, and as such it is deep, hilarious and inspiring.
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous story
This story just makes me feel good. It demonstrates the strength of women, relationships,
the healing power of love and compassion.
Published 6 months ago by G O'Neill
3.0 out of 5 stars Movie?
Maybe the movie is actually better than the book in this case. Read it. Made little impression. Perhaps I am not smart enough to understand the deeper meaning?
Published 10 months ago by B. Arthurs-jones
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed about this one
This book was written well without a doubt and the characters memorable. But at times I found myself bored with the storyline as there seemed to be little within the pages to grab... Read more
Published 18 months ago by A Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully written...
A friend referred me to this book and after several reads of it, I had to pass it on to anyone young and old! Read more
Published on July 15 2011 by NL
5.0 out of 5 stars Well in my humble opinion...
I recently "re-found" this book in my closet while home from university. I remember where I was when I read it, but couldn't, for the life of me remember anything about the book. Read more
Published on Feb. 16 2011 by Steff H
5.0 out of 5 stars book club choice
Our book club chose this book. We all thoroughly enjoyed the story. It will make for interesting discussions. Read more
Published on March 15 2010 by Babysis
5.0 out of 5 stars short and sweet. A good read.
It's a coming of age story set in the southern U.S. at the time of the civil rights movement. The protagonist is a thoughtful young 14 yr old girl who lives a tragedy when she is... Read more
Published on Feb. 22 2010 by Daniel Burgess
5.0 out of 5 stars Just as good when read a second time
I loved this book the first time I read it years ago. Recently I reread it and enjoyed it even more so, mostly because now I'm a beekeeper. Read more
Published on Aug. 9 2009 by Barbara
4.0 out of 5 stars Busy bees, buzzing with life...
This is a simple, unpretentious read, yet very pleasant.

1964, rural South Carolina. Many different themes are explored through the voice of Lily, a white 14 year-old... Read more
Published on Oct. 27 2008 by I LOVE BOOKS
5.0 out of 5 stars I thouroughly enjoyed the journey I took with Lily Owens
Lily is 14 the summer her world changes. She lost her mother at four in a terrible accident that she can't remember more than as a blur. Read more
Published on Oct. 14 2007 by D. R. Rooney
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