Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Secret Life Of Bees” as Want to Read:
The Secret Life Of Bees
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Secret Life Of Bees

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating Details  ·  869,184 Ratings  ·  24,896 Reviews
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 th ...more
Audio Cassette, Unabridged
Published December 2002 by Books on Tape (first published November 8th 2001)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Secret Life Of Bees, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Kc I read out loud to my girls until they were grown and our schedules became conflicted. We read this one when the youngest was about 13, like Lily in…moreI read out loud to my girls until they were grown and our schedules became conflicted. We read this one when the youngest was about 13, like Lily in the book. They loved every minute of it. It was one of their favorites of all the books we ever read(less)
G Most of the book takes place at a bee farm. The bees were at the bee farm, because bee farms farm bees.

But anyway, this book was not literally about…more
Most of the book takes place at a bee farm. The bees were at the bee farm, because bee farms farm bees.

But anyway, this book was not literally about bees. This book centered around Lily, Rosaleen, and the beekeeping sisters. Because bees are a part of daily life, they are oft mentioned and their habits can relate to what is happening is these women's lives.(less)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Mar 08, 2007 Kerry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Chicks
Okay, hear me out. This is SO not the kind of book I normally read. It's the kind of book my mother reads. You know the type I'm talking about: "Reviving Ophelia", "Not Without My Daughter"...mother-y books. It was, in fact, my mother who demanded I read this book, because she read it in her book club. DOUBLE red flag. That is when I normally drop the book and run as fast as possible away from her, screaming and flailing my arms. But when she gave me this book I happened to have a lot of time on ...more
Jun 12, 2007 Sammy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: a-the-best
Ahhh! *gasp* *choke* *stammer* I can barely find the words to say how much I loved this book. Honestly, The Secret Life of Bees has to be one of the best books I've read in a while. I just want to give it several A+'s and a kiss!

It was touching, well-written, beautiful, full of expression, insightful, anything you could want in a book and then some. It started off with a bang, that wasn't a bang... it grabbed you, but didn't startle you so much that the rest of the book was dull in comparison. T
Jul 11, 2007 Dolly rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like Southern-flavored coming-of-age books and
I confess to being a little hesitant going into this book. It is, after all, that most cliched and irritating of literati faves: a coming-of-age story set in the American South. Lily, a motherless 14-year-old girl lives with her bigoted abusive father on a peach farm in South Carolina. Her goals involve befriending black people and finding information about her long-dead mother. Just summarizing this thing inspires the eye-rolling.

But the book does have some saving graces. First, the writing is
May 12, 2008 Anna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Anna by: book club
It was ironic that I read most of this book on Mother's Day. At the core, this book isn't about race relations, the Virgin Mary, or even beekeeping, though those are all interesting parts of the story. It's a book about mothers. Mothers who are imperfect, mothers who make mistakes, and women who become mothers because they see people who need to be loved. I can't readily connect to most of those other topics, but everyone on the planet knows what it's like to have--or need--a mother in their liv ...more
Jul 24, 2008 Jeffrey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: popular-fiction
I surveyed my class and 80% gave it two thumbs up: 5 stars. That's 28 out of 35 students. The rest of the class gave it an OK: 3 or 4 stars. So my giving it 5 stars has been backed by research into the general public's taste. ;=)

Now, I'm not much for spending time on fiction. I don't need entertainment, I need information. But as a story teller, occasional writing class instructor, I like to keep up with some of the new fiction.

Bees is pretty good. I don't get a sense of the forced or trite he
Jason Koivu
Nov 21, 2014 Jason Koivu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read it. Enjoyed it. Any day now I expect to be entirely swallowed up by my own home-grown vagina.

If you've read The Help, you don't need to read this. One contemporary coming of age book about a white southern girl amongst black women discovering life in 1960s is plenty.

Sue Monk Kidd's explosively popular (I'm going to go out on a very sturdy limb and guess that this was an Oprah book) The Secret Life of Bees is a perfectly enjoyable read that any mother would love. Oh the imagery, the ambian
Rae  Walker
Jul 02, 2007 Rae Walker rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People Who Liked Number One Ladies Detective Agency
This was a harmless, heart warming book that did not change my life or enrich my thinking in any large way - except perhaps that I am slightly less afraid of bees. One thing that is a slight pet peeve with me is the healing power apparently inherent in the culture of the 'other'. Here is the formula: 1 caucasian person, hurt and broken by the world they live in, be it by family, work or environment + 1 minority culture (black or asian is fine) = that one caucasian person finding the true wonders ...more
Jul 27, 2016 XxTainaxX rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed the story about a growing girl finding her way during a difficult time in history to the family she was always meant to have. The story is set during the early desegregation period in the US when hostility and resistance to change was the norm. Lily is trying to uncover her mother's past while dealing with some recent trouble with her caretaker Rosaleen. In her quest, she meets three sisters. August, the wise matriarch of the lot. June, the skeptical one. May, the sweet but trou ...more
Jun 26, 2007 Elaine rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A coming-to-age novel set in South Carolina at the height of desegregation. Lily is a lovable pre-teen who'd grown up believing she killed her mother (accidentally) and is trying to escape a brutal, abusive father. Filled with a cast of eccentric characters, Lily runs away with Rosaleen, a black servant, and finds herself in a beekeeper's sanctuary, where secrets come spilling out of the closet for a cymbal-clashing ending. Although rendered very close to the voice of a believable pre-teen, the ...more
Oct 10, 2007 A.K. added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: maroons
Read this in a couple of hours while I was babysitting. Not always a good sign; particularly when the reason I am looking for material is that the only other house options are natural health and yoga magazines, as I am a dedicated chainsmoker with terrible posture.

Some of the ideas patly blurbed on the back seemed compelling. Mary definitely wasn't a WASP, so that's interesting; beekeeping is fertile for extended metaphor; and tough runaway girlchildren are a favorite, chixploitation or no. But
May 18, 2007 Red rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm picking this up again out of desperation. it's pretty bad. the pacing is terrible, the characterization is spotty, cliched, and rarely believeable, and there is so much shlocky dime-store 'wisdom' stuffed into the pages that it's a wonder anything ever actually happens, plot-wise. writing from the point of view of a child or adolescent is hard, and authors rarely get it right. this book certainly doesn't.

oh god, and the epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter are so hit-you-over-the-head
Oct 09, 2010 tee rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own
I actually liked this book. I only read the reviews afterwards and noticed that a lot of people complain of the stereotyping, and embarrassingly - I was so in love with the characters that it didn't phase me, I'm ashamed. I did notice that the African Americans were all painted as stereotypes but I figured that the author was just using a voice that kept with the times - back then, that's how everything was seen. But now I feel a little conflicted because god damn, I hate stereotypes and I'm usu ...more
Shayantani Das
Jan 10, 2012 Shayantani Das rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book would be absolutely amazing, if there was anything ingenious about this book. It’s a story about Lily, a 14 year old in the racist American South. Sounds familiar? There is more. She is motherless, and is laden with guilt over having accidently killed her mother. Her father is evil. No really, like pure, unadulterated evil , with no redeeming qualities or anything. And, SURPRISE!!! He is abusive! And tortures Lily. Never saw that one coming!

Who was persistently screaming Cliché!!! a
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Oct 28, 2012 Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of southern charm and strong women
4 stars. They say you can’t judge a book by its cover. Weird, lately that’s what I’ve been doing and it’s working... All the hype brought me to it; the cover and title hooked me. A great story chock full of symbolism, I suppose it’s like an adult Aesop’s fable featuring bees.
Timeline early sixties, place racially-charged South Carolina, it’s an inspirational and decidedly feminist book with an interesting touch of spiritualism. The courageous story of a young girl’s escape from a bitter and ab
Maggie Stiefvater
Jan 25, 2009 Maggie Stiefvater rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recommended
I hesitantly picked up this book based upon numerous recommendations; frankly, the back of the book blurb just didn't sound like my sort of thing. Historical coming of age drama type stuff is just not me.

That said, however, Sue Monk Kidd completely made me change my tune. While this book isn't perfect, I was completely enchanted by the writing, the pacing, and the careful observation. As a Virginian well-versed in humid Southern summers and Southern cooking, I thought Kidd did a fantastic job o
Jun 06, 2007 Leah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Though The Secret Life of Bees has the potential to be a heartwarming little novel, it falls flat on many accounts. The characters often feel unoriginal, including a sassy black nanny; a smart, yet under-valued girl who dreams of being a writer; and a roughneck southern farmer. While cliches exist because of a bit of truth in them, I found nothing truthful in the majority of these characters, whose actions,including the two main inciting incidents of the novel, seem completed unmovitated and out ...more
Oct 10, 2008 Sandi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008
To me, the difference between is a good book and a great book is whether you have to suspend disbelief or whether you just believe. I became curious about “The Secret Life of Bees” when I saw the preview for the upcoming movie in the theater. It looked mildly interesting and overly sugary. You know, one of those feel good stories about people coming together despite racial differences. It’s been done a gazillion times and the stories are usually trite and maudlin. (I will say that the movie look ...more
UniquelyMoi ~ BlithelyBookish
While blood might be thicker than water, sometimes it's the family we choose to belong to whose ties can't be broken.

The story revolves around 14 year old Lily Owens and is at times, dark. But as Lily tries to make sense of her life and tries to find another way, she meets some amazingly strong and loving women who show her what a real family is about.

The Secret Life of Bees is a well written story that flows seamlessly. The characters are people who charm their way into your heart with their qu
Aug 16, 2008 Nikki rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorites. I didn't want to put it away and was sad when it was over.
Larry Bassett
This is a book that just about every woman (and quite a few men) has read. So it is my turn. As is often the case when I am coming late to a best seller, I really don’t know much about the book other than it is a must read. The first allusion is to bees swarming and death. We have the maternal black woman substituting for the dead white mother caring for the plain young girl with a much to be desired father.

The young girl, Lily, has an imagination from the get go.
I used to have daydreams in wh
The Secret Life of Bees is a cliched soap opera, the sort of book that would provoke rave responses at book clubs composed of mostly bored housewifes. It's a pretty formulaic tale of a young, southern girl whose daddy abuses her, so she decides to run away with her black servant and find solace in an unlikely place.

The story is a reversal of Huck Finn's tale, which results in a schmaltzy schlock. The novel is full of stereotypes - 99% of the white male figures are abusive bastards, the girl's fa
Nov 24, 2013 Sharon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-read
This novel takes place in 1964 during the Civil Rights Act in Southern Carolina.
Lily Owen is a fourteen year old poor Southern white girl who lives on an isolated peach farm with her abusive father T. Ray and Rosaleen the big hearted black housekeeper. Lily's mother died tragically when she was four years old. Lily has grown up believing that she was the one who accidentally killed her mother with a shotgun. Lily spends most her days working hard on the farm with no appreciation or love from her
Mar 15, 2008 Morgan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Southern women who haven't read enough Southern women books
Being from the South, I am quite familiar with the whole "Southern girl coming of age" genre. I have read many of these books, and the best are framed with nuanced, real characters that raise the book from cliche (Bastard Out of Carolina is a good example of this). This was not one of those books.

I am not totally blasting this book--much of it was written well, and parts were almost enjoyable. Lily was (most of the time) a pretty likable character, and I actually cared about her during the book.
Nov 03, 2008 Emily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are books you read along the way that take your breath away. This was definetly one of them for me. I truly connected with the main character Lily toward the end of the book. On page 278 was when my breath was taken, when tears sprang from my eyes, and I thought this could be me talking at 14 years old. It read .."I wished she'd been smart enough, or loving enough, to realize everybody has burdens that crush them, only they don't give up thier children. In a weird way I must have loved my ...more
Nov 26, 2007 Hannah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Reading the Secret Life of Bees is like meeting the best friend of your childhood within the confines of 302 pages of prose. Lily Owens is a 14-year-old girl who only wants a place to belong after running away from her miserable father with her black nursemaid Rosaleen. With nowhere else to go, Lily and Rosaleen are taken in by three eccentric sisters: black beekeepers who hold the clues to Lily’s past, and quite possibly her future. Expertly set in 1964 in the heart of the American South, Lily ...more
Jan 26, 2008 Cortney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am a sucker for beautiful prose and a story that fleshes out really wonderful characters and relationships. And can I just say it? Long live strong Southern women!
Nov 21, 2011 Luana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Immagina che tu ed io, tu che leggi, e io che scrivo il commento, siamo amici migliori da un triliardo di anni, di quelli che chiamano ‘zio’ e ‘zia’ i rispettivi genitori, che sanno che metti a lavare le cose che non vuoi ripiegare e riporre che nei cassetti, che io ti abbia visto sbavare/morire d’amore/penare per un amore non corrisposto, oppure del tutto immaginario, che ti abbia accompagnato al funerale di un nonno piangendo lacrime amare oppure di un trisavolo antiquato con tanto di risate d ...more
May 01, 2008 علی rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
Thanks a lot to Sue Monk Kido: “Words are the most beautiful things existed in the world, but they die as fast as they were born, unless you convert them to act”! This is so simple but a fact, as beautiful and strong as life.
The Secret life of Bees is a large combination of beautiful moments, scenes, words, principles and characters, such as May, the one sister who “has no walls around her heart”, and the description of “wailing wall” where one deal with her / his own suffering. I love what Augu
Feb 27, 2015 Petra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I listened to this book while jogging. It's a wonderful story to listen to while out on the trails. The story slowly unfolds and the underlying fears are touching and you want to wrap Lily up in your arms and keep her safe.
Lily's voice is wonderful. Her views are funny, realistic and hopeful. Never does she lose hope and she always tries so hard to find the good.
In the end, this book is about being protected, loving & being loved and forgiveness.
Will Byrnes
Nov 02, 2008 Will Byrnes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a lovely tale. In reading it is easy to imagine an A-list director seizing on the ample imagery to the crescendos of a John Williams orchestration. It tells of Lily, a South Carolina 14 year old. She lives, unhappily, with her crusty father T. Ray and Rosaleen, the woman who raised her after her mother died when Lily was 4. It is a coming of age tale set against the civil rights issues of the early 60’s. It is certainly no coincidence that Lily (as in white) spends most of the book in th ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
  • Broken for You
  • Cold Sassy Tree
  • The Bean Trees (Greer Family, #1)
  • Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
  • The Prince of Tides
  • The Red Tent
  • Circle of Friends
  • The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less
  • Little Bee
  • Between, Georgia
  • Charms for the Easy Life
  • Home to Big Stone Gap (Big Stone Gap, #4)
  • Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
  • The Honk and Holler Opening Soon
  • Joy School (Katie Nash, #2)
  • Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith
  • Under the Tuscan Sun
  • The Persian Pickle Club

SUE MONK KIDD was raised in the small town of Sylvester, Georgia. She graduated from Texas Christian University in 1970 and later took creative writing courses at Emory University and Anderson College, as well as studying at Sewanee, Bread Loaf, and other writers’ conferences. In her forties, Kidd turned her attention to writing fiction, winning the South Carolina Fellowship in Literature and the
More about Sue Monk Kidd...

Share This Book

“Someone who thinks death is the scariest thing doesn't know a thing about life.” 1590 likes
“If you need something from somebody always give that person a way to hand it to you.” 735 likes
More quotes…