Book Review of The Secret Life of the Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Name of book: The Secret Life of Bees

Author Name: Sue Monk Kidd

Type of book: young adult-adult, 1960s, racism, South, white female/black male relationship, interracial relationship, coming of age, bees

Year it was published: 2002


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 firece-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 Carolin-a town that holds the secret to her mother’s past. Taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters, Lily is introduced to their mesmerizing world of bees and honey, and the Black Madonna. This is a remarkable novel about divine female power, a story that women will share and apss on to their daughters for years to come.


Almost all characters are rounded and are given multiple dimensions. The reader watches Lily change from a frightened girl who is filled with pain to one who is not afraid and is more certain and is able to face her fears. The men are also painted positively, at least the African American men. (One is able to understand and sympathize with Zack’s determination to become a lawyer.) However, the American men are painted negatively in the book. (The reader doesn’t learn how, when and why T-Ray has been this way to Lily.) Lily desires to find a place to belong, to be away from the white world, and in a colored world Lily at last finds her place.


I think the main theme or conflict is self acceptance and trying to fight the fears to find out the truth. In beginning of the novel Lily describes how her mother died and her memories of that day, and throughout she struggles in trying to discover the truth.


The novel is in first person and told from Lily’s point of view. I liked the interspersing of the bees and the women and how that ties it to religion. I also liked watching Lily transition from an uncertain frightened girl to someone who can stand up for herself and someone who knows what she wants. In an odd way, although I grew up in ’90s and ’00s, this was a nostalgic book, and Lily is very easy to relate to for anyone.

Author Information:

Sue Monk Kidd (born August 12, 1948) is a writer from the Southern United States, best known for her novel, The Secret Life of Bees. (from wikipedia)


It’s odd that I found this book last year. I heard of the movie first and went to watch it with somebody special in my life who is Korean. (Later on he asked me what it was like for Asian male white female relationships in the 1950s.) That happened in the winter if I remember right. On September 23rd, 2010, I saw this book in a library and bought it. The reason I mention the date is that around this time this particular friend left for Korea. When I saw it I couldn’t help but get it.

I don’t regret getting it. I enjoyed reading it a great deal the first time around, and even second time around where I could see the feminism in it. I liked the symbolism of bees, how they are tied around one female, the queen and how that is linked to Mary. (I’m not a christian so I apologize that I cannot expound more on this thought…) One thing I always was curious about is how queen bees are born. Queen bees give birth to drones and worker bees. Worker bees are infertile. So when a Queen bee dies, how does a new queen get to be born?

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