Friday, January 4, 2013

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Title: The Secret Life of Bees
Author: Sue Monk Kidd
Publication Date: 2002
Length: 336 pages

The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of a young white girl named Lily Owens, living in South Carolina in the 1960s, whose mom died when she was young, and whose father is abusive and just all-around horrible. When one of the family's black servants, Rosaleen, goes to jail for insulting the town racists, Lily breaks her out and they run away to Tiburon, South Carolina, a location chosen by Lily because it was written on the back of a picture of the Black Madonna that belonged to her mother. Once in Tiburon, the two are taken in by three black sisters who keep bees.

I liked this story a lot more than I expected. I feared a book steeped in White Saviour crap, ala The Help*. Instead, Lily is saved by the black women she meets. She's an interesting character, because she's too young and sweet-hearted to really be a racist yet, despite her home town, but she does realise along the way that she has prejudices she wasn't even aware of.

This is an interesting story about a key moment in African-American history (black people have just won the right to vote, but trying to actually register to vote can still get them killed). It's also a beautiful story about a family that's been through a lot of pain, but still find strength in each other, and in their somewhat-Catholic-somewhat-Goddess-worshiping religion.

4 stars.

*To be honest, I haven't actually read The Help. My negative opinion on it is based entirely on reviews and whatnot that I've read about it.


  1. Yes! I read this YEARS ago, but really loved it. I should find a copy for a reread this year ... I seem to have misplaced my copy, but maybe that means someone else is enjoying it. :)

    Glad you liked this! I actually really liked The Help, too ... I hope you can read it sometime.

    1. I doubt I'll give The Help a chance... With books like that, I try to listen to what black readers are saying about it, since I know as a white person I'm not always aware of when things are problematic. Based on their overall reaction, I'll probably stick to stories about black people written by black people.

  2. I haven't read this one and I haven't read The Help but I'm glad to hear that it isn't the same (though neither of us have read The Help). I've heard the same thing about The Help