Saturday, March 27, 2010

Book Review: The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

The Secret Life of Bees is the story of Lily Owens, a young girl growing up with her harsh father and few memories of her mother.  Lily's mother was killed in a tragic accident and Lily clings to all she has that was once her mother's: a photo, some gloves, and a picture of the Black Madonna with the words Tiburon, South Carolina on the back.  When she and her black "stand-in mother" Rosaleen are forced to run away, they make their way to Tiburon where Lily hopes to understand some part of her mother's history.  What she doesn't expect is to be welcomed into the home of three black bee-keeping sisters who will change her view of life forever.

The Secret Life of Bees

Things I Liked: 

I re-read this one for my book group and found I liked it even more the second time.  All of the book group folks adored it too!  Definitely a book we enjoyed reading and discussing.  I love the way Lily grows and changes and is finally able to grieve for her mother.  Kidd manages to weave ideas into the progression of the story so well that we don't notice them until they emerge in full bloom.  August was such a wonderful character - the kind of person everyone wants in their life.  I was also drawn to May for the way she experienced life in extremes - both the sorrow and the joy.  There is just something about a story like this - not a happy ending so much as a hopeful one - where a young girl manages to rise above the tragedies in her life, even if she is the author of some of those tragedies.  Thoughtful, interesting, a book to be savored.  I kept marking passages that I found beautiful or poignant and ended up with way too many to share here.  However:
"I looked down at the bee jar still clutched in my hand and saw a teaspoon of teardrops floating in the bottom.  I unfastened the window screen and poured it out.  The wind lifted it on her skirt tails and shook it over the blistered grass." p 40 
"I wish you could've seen the Daughters of Mary the first time they laid eyes on this label.  You know why?  Because when they looked at her, it occurred to them for the first time in their lives that what's divine can come in dark skin  You see, everybody needs a God who looks like them, Lily." p140-141
"You know, some things don't matter that much, Lily  Like the color of a house.  How big is that in the overall scheme of life?  But lifting a person's heart - now, that matters.  The who problem with people is -"
"They don't know what matters and what doesn't," I said, filling in her sentence and feeling proud of myself for doing so.
"I was gonna say, The problem is they know what matters, but they don't choose it...The hardest thing on earth is choosing what matters." p147
"Every human being on the face of the earth has a steel plate in his head, but if you lie down now and then and get still as you can, it will slide open like elevator doors, letting in all the secret thoughts that have been standing around so patiently, pushing the button for a ride to the top.  Tee real troubles in life happen when those hidden doors stay closed for too long." p170
Things I Didn't Like:
I didn't much like Rosaleen.  She seemed more like a necessary element to lead the story along than an essential character in the story.  I was also disappointed we didn't see more of a father figure.  I understand this is a woman power, mothering story, but I think it's important to recognize that children need both a mother and father of some kind.  Too bad her father was such a jerk.

I kept thinking about The Help by Katherine Stockett

s-factor: !@#
regularly throughout

mrg-factor: X
female bodies are mentioned, but not in explicit ways

v-factor: ->
a few elements that are frightening

Overall rating: ****

What is a favorite book from your book group?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage


  1. It's been so long since I read this book, I can hardly remember it. Sounds like I'm due for a re-read!

  2. This is one of the few books that actually made me cry when I read it. I am so happy all of your bookclub enjoyed it too! Great review and re-read!

  3. Susan, it holds up well for re-reading!

    Amused, I think I cried both times, even when I knew what would happen :)

  4. Our book group really liked this one too. Some of our favorites have been A Thousand Splendid Suns, The Count of Monte Cristo, Precious Bane, Guernsey, and so many more. I love book club!

  5. It's been a while since I read this book. I loved it. I keep wondering if the movie was any good.

  6. Kim, I'd love to read Precious Bane with a book group!

    Sharon, I haven't seen it either. I probably should!

  7. Oh, I loved this one too, Melissa!

    I was interested in your comment, "I think it's important to recognize that children need both a mother and father of some kind." A lot of gay families (or single-parent families) would disagree with you! It is too bad her father was such a jerk, though, no argument there.

  8. Sam, I've no doubt people would disagree with me :) It is just my opinion. It obviously isn't necessary to have both, but it is (my) ideal. I think it's important to have both male and female role models or father and mother figures in a child's life.

  9. This was such a great book. Definitely one for my re-read pile.

  10. It really holds up on each rereading!


Love it when you comment!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Copyright © melissa of One Librarian's Book Reviews 2008-2015