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 (August, June and May), Lily is introduces 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. (*)
A heartwarming coming of age story wrought with inner struggles, palpable sadness and the power of love to transform a life, this book is filled with the wonders of beekeeping philosophy and poignantly lovable characters. I've read this book years ago and in my dim memory all I did remember was how achingly beautiful the words played around in my mind long after I finished reading it and the character of May, who is such an odd and caring person she would put socks in the clawed feet of the bathtub just so it won't get chilled.
What this book have is a big heart about to burst out of deep joy and out of deep pain, mixed with teen angst (as the story is narrated to us by the brave fourteen-year old Lily), society struggles in the old South (think of black beekeeping sisters against a white town), family drama haunted with tragedy, a touch of spiritualism, the hum of bees and more bees. The atmosphere of the South, its hot summer and the fragrance of flowers along with August's wisdom, spill on its pages just as if you were there feeling it. By the end of the story, I have gathered at least enough knowledge about the remedies and good uses of honey (and an urge to keep my own jars, or better yet, keep real bees).
In some ways, it unconsciously propels the readers to reflect on their own lives, of their choices to deal with their past regrets or the day to day or the future even. It's funny how the voice of enlightenment is embodied by May, when others would deem her strange and not normal at all. Till the end, the burden of Lily hovers above her like a dark cloud and we wonder how the rest of her life will unravel.
Book Title: The Secret Life of Bees
Author: Sue Monk Kidd
Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Women's Fiction
Published: 2003 Paperback
Publisher: Penguin Books
Rating: ♨♨♨♨ (4 cups - The story will touch you, make you cry and laugh at the same time, and think all forms of love against bitter truths and wounds. Just like the tears that form behind your lids that never really fall and never goes away either, that's how it is with this book.)