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The Secret Life of Bees Paperback – Jan 28 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; 1st New edition edition (Jan. 28 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142001740
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142001745
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 249 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (783 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #24,283 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By D. R. Rooney on Oct. 14 2007
Format: Paperback
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. Her father T Ray is a hard and manipulating man who shows no love for his daughter. Lily has been raised by Rosaleen, a black woman has been Lily's surrogate mother. Bees are a focal part of Lily's young life. She hears them in the walls at night and her father laughs at her but Lily knows they are there. One day in town Rosaleen insults 3 racists and Lily knows it is finally time to leave and go in search of the mother she lost so long ago. Her journey takes her to the town of Tiburon. A name her mother wrote on the back of a picture of a black madonna. There Lily and Rosaleen are taken in by 3 black sisters, May, June and August. The sisters are beekeepers. So begins the summer of Lily finding herself and what really happened to her mother. This is a wonderful story of life. About mothers and daughters and relationships with women who become our true mothers. I really enjoyed this book. It brought back memories of the soul searching that is involved with the loss of one's mother. It takes time but with time peace can be found.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Shelton Seabold on July 22 2007
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.
THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES, about maternal loss and betrayal, guilt and forgiveness, has a wisdom about life, entwined with the transforming power of love, and it reminded me so strongly of the books THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER and the ever-popular and jaw-dropping BARK OF THE DOGWOOD. But Kidd's novel has something even these other books don't-a sweetness that feeds the soul. The main character's harsh father had made her believe that she was responsible for the death of her mother.

This being a fictional account, the main character 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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Frank Gwire on Oct. 13 2006
Format: Paperback
THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES is one of a handful of books that I would recommend to a friend or the average Amazon reader. LIFE OF PI is another, along with Sedaris's ME TALK PRETTY. All are different-unique in their own way. But all are also stellar reads. 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.

Also recommended: KATZENJAMMER by Jackson McCrae
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Frank Gwire on May 24 2006
Format: Paperback
THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES is one of a handful of books that I would recommend to a friend or the average Amazon reader. LIFE OF PI is another, along with Sedaris's ME TALK PRETTY. All are different-unique in their own way. But all are also stellar reads. 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.
Also recommended: KATZENJAMMER by Jackson McCrae
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