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The Secret Life of Bees

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  994,304 Ratings  ·  27,834 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
Paperback, 336 pages
Published January 28th 2003 by Penguin Books (first published November 8th 2001)
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Eileen Simonet Were u sleep reading? The bees are all throughout the book! It was marvelous and now I have book hangover!
Dogyal Tshering Exactly ! I think this book should be read by teenagers, especially girls.
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Community Reviews

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Mar 08, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
May 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Will Byrnes
Nov 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Sue Monk Kidd - image from her FB pages

The Secret Life of Bees is a lovely tale. 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 the company of earth-mother black people. Rosaleen attempts to register to vo
Jul 11, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
Feb 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Ahmad Sharabiani
The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd
The Secret Life of Bees is a book by author Sue Monk Kidd. Published: November 8th 2001. The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of a 14-year-old white girl, Lily Melissa Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. She lives in a house with her abusive father, whom she refers to as T. Ray. They have a no-nonsense maid, Rosaleen, who acts as a surrogate mother for Lily. The book opens with Lily's discove
Jun 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 14, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Fourteen year old Lily was so tired of her father yelling at her, forcing punishment on her almost daily, accusing her of things she didn’t do – so when Rosaleen, her nanny since her mother’s death when she was just four years old, was arrested and beaten by white men – with the police looking on - Lily decided enough was enough. The racial prejudice in South Carolina in the 1960s was oppressive and cruel – Lily couldn’t work out why skin colour made such a difference.

With no plan other than to
Megan Baxter
May 25, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Dec 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Coming-of-age story readers
Set in 1964 at Sylvan, South Carolina, the Secret Life of Bees tells the coming-of-age story of Lily Owens whose life has been nothing but a struggle after her mother’s unexpected death.

Heartwarming and empowering, Kidd took me on a journey of self-acceptance, faith, and freedom.

In a time of growing racial tension and violence, I found a touching story of a young girl in a bee farm with an endearing set of characters. Evidently, the main focus of the plot was Lily but I also liked how the underl
Jun 24, 2007 rated it did not like it
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 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
May 10, 2007 rated it did not like it
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
Jul 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Maggie Stiefvater
Jan 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 17, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Jul 22, 2012 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
Shayantani Das
Jun 24, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
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
May 28, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
Dec 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Fourteen year old, Lily Owens has only ever wanted to be loved by her parents. With a less than loving father, it seems the only hope she will have is to cling to the memory of her deceased mother in hopes that she had loved Lily before her death. When Lily's father T. Ray, tells her that her mother left her behind when she was younger, that is all the excuse she needs to run away from him and his terrible and hurtful lies.

Set in the 1960s, during the Civil Rights Movement, Rosaleen, the housek
Oct 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Charlotte May
"Above all, send the bees love. Every little thing wants to be loved."

I do love this book.
What starts off as a quiet story about a young girl in South Carolina, turns into a strong tale of race, prejudice, and finding love in the most unexpected places.
Lily Owens' mother died when she was 4 from an accident with a gun and Lily has always felt responsible. Her mothers death left her in the care of her abusive father who she calls T-ray and their housekeeper Rosaleen - Lily's only friend.
When r
Nov 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars, such a heart warming book.
Rebecca Foster
It’s hard to believe that it was 15 years ago that this debut novel was an It book, and harder to believe that I’d never managed to get around to it until now. However, in some ways it felt familiar because I’d read a fair bit of background via Kidd’s chapter in Why We Write about Ourselves and Traveling with Pomegranates, in which she and her daughter explored the Black Madonna tradition in Europe.

This novel represents the joining of fairly unusual elements you wouldn’t expect to find in fictio
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 rated it it was amazing
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
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Around the Year i...: The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd 7 55 Jun 15, 2018 08:43PM  
Not for kids! 18 615 May 30, 2018 01:42PM  
Anime Simulcast: This topic has been closed to new comments. Chapters 4 - 6 Discussion 8 8 May 27, 2018 03:59PM  
Anime Simulcast: This topic has been closed to new comments. Chapters 10 - 12 Discussion 4 6 May 23, 2018 09:31PM  
Anime Simulcast: This topic has been closed to new comments. Chapters 7 - 9 Discussion 4 5 May 22, 2018 08:35PM  
Anime Simulcast: This topic has been closed to new comments. Chapters 1 - 3 Discussion 10 8 May 22, 2018 07:52PM  
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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
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“Someone who thinks death is the scariest thing doesn't know a thing about life.” 1671 likes
“If you need something from somebody always give that person a way to hand it to you.” 803 likes
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