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The Secret Life of Bees

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4.05  ·  Rating details ·  1,079,787 ratings  ·  29,558 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 ...more
Paperback, 302 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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Average rating 4.05  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,079,787 ratings  ·  29,558 reviews


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Kerry
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
Sammy
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.
...more
Dolly
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
...more
Will Byrnes
Nov 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
description
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 60s. 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
...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
...more
Anna
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 ...more
Jeffrey
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
...more
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
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
...more
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
Brenda
Fourteen year old Lily was so tired of her father yelling at her, forcing punishment on her almost daily, accusing her of things she didnt do so when Rosaleen, her nanny since her mothers 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 couldnt work out why skin colour made such a difference.

With no plan other than to get
...more
EP
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
Red
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
...more
Brian
Jan 03, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Every little thing wants to be loved.

Not sure what to say about this book. I enjoyed reading it, but I never had a desire to pick it up.
I read it. It was fine. I wont read it again.
A big issue with The Secret Life of Bees is that it is emotionally manipulative. I do not mind that, but be good at manipulating me. This novel is excessively obvious about it.
However, the text has moments of nice insight and thought. Some examples:

The problem is they know what matters, but they dont choose it.
...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
...more
A.K.
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
...more
XxTainaxX Curvy and Nerdy
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 ...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
...more
Shayantani
Jun 24, 2011 rated it did not like it
This book would be absolutely amazing, if there was anything ingenious about this book. Its 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!!!
...more
Kathleen


#########SPOILER ALERT############

5 Bee-utiful stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

"Bees have a secret life we don't know anything about."

I read The Secret Life of Bees fifteen years ago and was pleased to reread it for a 'Real Live Book Club'. I enjoyed the beautiful descriptive and sometimes humorous writing about fourteen-year-old Lily Melissa Owens and Rosaleen, her fierce-hearted, black "stand-in mother".

"I'd never been inside a preacher's car before. It's not that I expected a ton of Bibles stacked on the
...more
tee
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 ...more
¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪SomeBunny (Phoenix)•*¨*•♫♪
You have to find a mother inside yourself. We all do. Even if we already have a mother, we still have to find this part of ourselves inside



This book simply has everything I love in a historical fiction book, plus, I mean, bees. Aren't they the most amazing, fascinating and incredibly complex animal? So strong and hard-working, but also surviving thanks to the most fragile balance - like women and mothers. Like them, they are fierce to attack who threatens them and their offspring; but are
...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 ½ stars. They say you cant judge a book by its cover. Weird, lately thats what Ive been doing and its working... All the hype brought me to it; the cover and title hooked me. A great story chock full of symbolism, I suppose its like an adult Aesops fable featuring bees.
Timeline early sixties, place racially-charged South Carolina, its an inspirational and decidedly feminist book with an interesting touch of spiritualism. The courageous story of a young girls escape from a bitter and abusive
...more
Stephanie Nicholas
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The use of simile and metaphor in this book, the author's voice, all of it was just astounding. So glad I read it!
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
...more
Leah
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
Ashley Daviau
Mar 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I went into this book with no idea what it was about, I picked it up at the used bookstore ages ago because the title caught my attention and then it got shoved to the back of my shelf and forgotten. Im so glad I finally read it because as soon as I opened this book I was instantly transported and felt like I fell into a magical realm. Now this isnt a fantasy book at all but theres no other way to describe it other than magical because thats how it made me feel! Its such a beautiful and touching ...more
Sandi
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. Its been done a gazillion times and the stories are usually trite and maudlin. (I will say that the movie looks ...more
Hannah
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
...more
Rebecca
May 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Its hard to believe that it was 15 years ago that this debut novel was an It book, and harder to believe that Id never managed to get around to it until now. However, in some ways it felt familiar because Id read a fair bit of background via Kidds 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 wouldnt expect to find in fiction
...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, 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 1996 Poets &
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