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The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
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Apr 18, 2008

it was amazing

Sue Monk Kidd
The Secret Life of Bees
New York: Penguin, 2003
317 pp. $14.00
0 14 20.0174 0

The Secret Life of Bees Unique Spin on Coming of Age Novel

Vivid descriptions of events and the enlightening point of view, from which The Secret Life of Bees is told, transport the reader into a whole new mindset and world. Sue Monk Kidd tells this fictional tale through the eyes of a young and impressionable teenager, Lily Owens, during the tumultuous Civil Rights Movement in the southern United States. The novel’s setting, in a rural Southern town, holding great history, and narration method, with Lily’s every thought and action inscribed on the paper, give the reader a greater understanding of what life was truly like for those living in the south during this movement and how one girl handles the journey from abused daughter to self-discovering fugitive.
One of the most crucial aspects that make this novel so individual is the point of view from which it is told. Lily Owens’ informal narration of this tale with vast detail, provides a whole new understanding of the events that occur, due to the fact that Lily is a static character, changing enormously throughout the novel causing the way she views each situation to gradually alter. When Lily runs away from her vindictive father, she views the world as her arena and possesses a great thirst for knowledge of her dead mother. As she travels from her hometown to Tiburon, South Carolina she realizes that the world is not as bright she once thought, but full of racism and discrimination, along with the recognition that her mother is not the wonderfully kind and loving creature that Lily once theorized. Due to Lily’s dramatic change in temperament, the reader is able to experience each occurrence and shift in Lily’s world with a new understanding and provide immense insight into her maturation into a woman.
In addition to this novel’s noteworthy narration, The Secret Life of Bees’ setting allows one to grasp an understanding of how the happenings in the Civil Rights Movement truly affected those that lived there and get a feel for the general way of life. Most of the novel takes place in rural, Tiburon, South Carolina at the home of the three African-American Boatwright sisters, August, May, and June. This establishment is where Lily runs away to upon the discovery of her mother’s past in this very place. This setting adds great color to the novel, due to South Carolina’s rich culture, which is highlighted in the many descriptions of the day-to-day life of its inhabitants along with the interactions that occur between the characters and their attitudes. Lastly, one of the most unique aspects of this novel is the way that each chapter is related to a passage about the habits and tendencies of bees, which August keeps, along with Lily’s help. Many of the aspects of bee keeping, along with many other descriptions in the novel are strengthened by the use of similes, such as “Driving back into remote corners of the woods where there were barely roads, we would come upon twenty-five beehives up on slats like a little lost city tucked back in there” (166). This correlation between the behavior of bees and Lily’s life adds a whole new level of thought to this novel and causes one to consider the close relationship of people with other living beings.
The Secret Life of Bees is an enchanting buildings roman that takes a unique twist on the traditional coming of age tale and keeps the reader greatly intrigued the entire read. Thanks to its distinctive narration, which places the reader directly in the head of a complex and ever-changing teenager, engrossing setting, that supplies every detail of life there, and overall correspondence of the characters’ feelings and actions to that of bees, this novel is an impeccable read, unparalleled by those in its genre.

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