Thursday, February 22, 2007

Novel: The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd


The story is set in the 1960s in Sylvan, just after the civil rights bill has been passed. A 14-year-old white girl Lily Owens is haunted by the accidental death of her mother 10 years ago. She lives with her cold, brutal, sadistic father on a peach farm. During her childhood, Rosaleen, a good-hearted and strong African American woman, is her only companion and acts as her "stand-in mother." One day in July 1964, Rosaleen goes to town to register to vote and insults three racists of the town. She is arrested, beaten up, and hospitalized. Lily decides to rescue Rosaleen and they flee to Tiburon, a town that Lily believes her mother had a connection to. In Tiburon, the black Mary labels on the honey jars lead them to Boatwright sisters named August, June, and May. August, the beekeeper, generously takes in Lily and Rosaleen. In their home, Lily recaptures the ideas of religion and racism, and also finds the long-lost maternal love. Irresistibly, she is infatuated with a young man, a black man.

My Opinion:

I like the story of this book in the way the author presents the wisdom about life:

  • Prejudice is always caused by a lack of understanding. The author shows how life experience has changed Lily’s thinking towards Blacks and June’s negative impression towards Lily.
  • The power of love can break the barriers between humans – Lily expresses her loves toward Rosaleen and Zach, while August shows her care for Deborah and Lily.
  • Lily forgives herself for her involvement in her mother’s accidental death and also forgives her father who treats her badly.

However, I disfavor with the following:

  • The story gets tedious when Lily is reluctant to come clean with August. I really dislike Lily’s character because she is too good in lying and she likes to keep everything inside of her. What’s more, I tired of her whining.
  • The story about May’s suicide is oversimplified. It is inconvincibly to have so many things happened in 20 minutes – walk out from the house to the river, come out with an idea of suicide, write a note, and suicide. Furthermore, there is no indication of May’s tendency to commit suicide.
  • T. Ray gives in too easily to let Lily stay in August’s place.
  • The relationship between Lily and Zach is unclear at the end of the story.

There are a couple of favorite quotes from the book that I like most:

  • … women made the best beekeepers because they have a special ability built into them to love creatures that sting – it comes from years of loving children and husbands.
  • “…, some things don’t matter that much, Lily…. How big is that in the overall schema of life? But lifting a person’s heart – now, that matters. The whole problem with people is –”, “… the problem is they know what matters, but they don’t choose it. You know how hard that is, Lily?...”

For further detail about the book, please refer to:


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