The Secret Life of Bess by Sue Monk Kidd
Page Count: 302
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: January 28th 2003
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 hearts
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 the Black Madonna. This is a remarkable novel about divine female power, a story women will share and pass on to their daughters for years to come.
Thoughts and Review:
This novel was such a switch up from my regular cup of tea-YA romance-but not-so surprisingly, I enjoyed it. I heard some pretty good reviews about this before I read it so I came in with some expectations, and in the end I am quite satisfied. Now I didn’t choose to read this out of choice, it was actually for a school assignment, and I must say this book is one of the very few assigned novels that I am somewhat fond of.
The synopsis and the title doesn’t really seem interesting, because after all it’s bees and honey. However, within a few chapters I realized that this was going to be a quicker read than I had expected. Our main character is a young girl named Lily who has been living most of her life with a single parent. What amount of love and care she lacks from her father, T. Ray, she is able to receive a bit of it from her nanny, Rosaleen. After Rosaleen gets into a bit of trouble with some racists in town, the two end up having to run away to Tiburon-a location chosen specially by Lily who hopes to find out about her mother’s past. In the turn of events, they end up living with three colored women who happen to be beekeepers.
One thing I really appreciated about this story is that it doesn’t sugar-coat a lot of the issues and situations. It’s the mid-twentieth century so there’s bound to be racism, heck it’s the twenty-first century and there’s still so much discrimination going around but that’s besides the point. The author didn’t try to sweeten the bad reality of life in these pages, besides racism there were also topics such as abuse and depression. I don’t personally relate to these things, but I know it happens and I think it’s great that the author allows readers to acknowledge it.
Even with the problems and the bits of violence, I can never seem to stray too far from my love so when I discovered that Lily had a thing for one of the boys in this novel, it made me want to read the book even more. It wasn’t your typical sweet cliche romance though, because even at fourteen, the two had to struggle a bit in order to hold onto their bond. That was only a minor part in this plot though, because motherly love played a much bigger role in The Secret Life of Bees.
The highlight of this book was probably the supporting characters though. The three sisters, August, June, and May were very likable and I am quite content with how things turned out for Lily and Rosaleen when they started living with them. August helped Lily mature a lot and it was nice reading about how she grew and learned from the beekeepers.
Overall, this was a very heartwarming and empowering story. It was a journey of regret, learning, forgiving, and moving on for Lily (who hold more strength than most would expect.) It’s definitely a book worth giving a try even if it isn’t out of your usual book shelf. Also this book had some amazing quotes but i forgot to mark the pages!
So that’s all for this review. Let me know in the comments if you’ve read this before or if you want to in the future.