The Secret Life of Bees
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The Secret Life of Bees

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3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  693,328 ratings  ·  21,388 reviews
SELECTED BY Good Morning America's "READ THIS!" BOOK CLUB

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 bot...more
Paperback, 318 pages
Published January 28th 2003 by Penguin Books (first published November 8th 2001)
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Kerry
Mar 08, 2007 Kerry rated it 4 of 5 stars 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
Dolly
Jul 11, 2007 Dolly rated it 2 of 5 stars 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...more
Sammy
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...more
Jeffrey
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...more
Anna
May 12, 2008 Anna rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
Elaine
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
Megan Baxter
Is it ever not going to be problematic to have a book about a young white girl finding nurturing black mother figures in the South? It's not the book itself, necessarily, just the part where this is practically a genre unto itself, and I haven't run into any books (certainly not with the stature of this one) about the young girl in the South who is black, and her experiences. Also the part where the black women are mostly there to mother the young white girl, and all of their differences tend to...more
A.K.
Oct 10, 2007 A.K. added it 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...more
Red
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...more
Rae  Walker
Jul 02, 2007 Rae Walker rated it 3 of 5 stars 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
tee
Oct 09, 2010 tee rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
Jason Koivu
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...more
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Oct 28, 2012 Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Lovers of southern charm and strong women
4 ½ 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 a...more
Tanu Das
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...more
UniquelyMoi ... So I Can Shine...
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...more
Sandi
Oct 10, 2008 Sandi rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
Leah
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
Nikki
One of my favorites. I didn't want to put it away and was sad when it was over.
Sharon
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...more
Hannah
Nov 26, 2007 Hannah rated it 4 of 5 stars 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
Cortney
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!
Luana
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
Maggie Stiefvater
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...more
Mayla
The Secret Life Of Bees
Sue Monk Kidd

Penguin Group, 2003, $14.00, 336 pgs.
ISBN 9-78-014200-1

“Most people don’t have any idea about all the complicated life going on inside a hive. Bees have a secret life we don’t know anything about” (Kidd 148). The Secret Life Of Bees allows us to discover more about creatures we think less of. Bees – what do they do? Disgusting and small, how complicated can things be for them? All they do is make honey and buzz, being sticky and annoying. That was what I thou...more
Emily
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
Maciek
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...more
Monique
"The Secret Life of Bees" is a coming-of-age story about 14-year-old Lily Owens who, haunted by a vague recollection surrounding the death of her mother when she was 4 years old, finds love and comfort in a most unexpected place: in the home of beekeeping African-American sisters, who take her in and treat her as one of their own. Reminiscent of another "girl power" novel I've read several years back, The Divine Secrets of the Ya-ya Sisterhood, which also dealt with mother-daughter relationship...more
Morgan
Mar 15, 2008 Morgan rated it 2 of 5 stars 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....more
علی
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...more
Zeek
I finished reading The Secret Life of Bees in one night. Good story!

It seemed to me to be a cross between Fried Green Tomatoes and To Kill a Mockingbird. In fact, as I read, I questioned if the author wasn't inspired by Fried Green Tomatoes.

Fourteen year old Lily lost her mother when she was four to a tragic accident, one in which she's always felt guilty about.

She is raised by her mostly abusive father, T-Ray, and a black woman named Rosaleen. When Rosaleen stands up to three white men in thei...more
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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
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