Secret Life of Bees (Review)

Labels: A Lighter Touch


The Secret Life of Bees
Sue Monk Kidd
336 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
March 2007

A wonderfully appealing coming-of-age story, The Secret Life of Bees is narrated by 14-year-old Lily Owens. Lily is the daughter of a South Carolina peach farmer, a spiteful, angry man, who blames her for her mother's death 10 years prior.

And so Lily runs away. Accompanied by her beloved African-American nanny, Rosaleen, she makes her way across the state, ending up in Turbon, South Carolina.

There the two find haven in the home of three eccentric beekeeping sisters. Lily gradually comes to terms with the loss of her mother—finding surrogate mothers, love, and wisdom as she completes her journey to wholeness.

While this is her debut as a novelist, Kidd has been a writer of inspirational books for 20 years. Her concerns are the inner workings of the soul: the need to find meaning in life and to experience the divine, however we define it. This book is the fictional reworking of these themes. Lily, in finding herself, finds the divine archetypal feminine, the great universal mother who resides within and empowers each of us.

The book is replete with metaphors: the beehive, honey, and queen bee stand in for concepts of home, love, and the uber-feminine. At times these symbols feel programmatic, serving as an illustration of a theme rather than an oil painting, rich with undertones and layered meanings.

Still, I enjoyed reading Bees, very much. Kidd's prose is light and fluid, creating a fable-like aura in parts. And Lily's adolescent voice is perfectly pitched. So I agree with those who say that this is a book for mothers and daughters to share and pass down for years to come.

You might also show clips from the 2008 film (Dakota Fanning, Queen Latifa, and Jennifer Hudson)...discussing how the movie compares with your own imaginings. 

See our Reading Guide for The Secret Life of Bees.

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