Penguin Books, 336 pages
"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 fierce hearted black "stand-in mother," Rosaleen, insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily decides to spring them both free."
I picked up The Secret Life of Bees on a complete whim. I was doing my usual browsing at Barnes and Noble and came across a copy, recognizing the title's name. I didn't know what it was about, so I went into reading with an open mind. This novel was an absolute pleasure. It's one of those books that has this marvelous story worth telling and as soon as you consume that last page you want to share it with everyone you know. I highly recommend it (in case you didn't already catch onto that).
The setting is in South Carolina in 1964 and the main character is Lily Owens. Lily Owens is a fourteen-year-old girl living with her abusive father, T. Ray. Her mother died when she was only four and she's still trying to unravel how her death even came about. All she remembers are bits and pieces and most of the novel revolves around Lily recollecting these memories to make one panned out puzzle in full view. Lily and T.Ray have a housemaid, Rosaleen, who more or less is Lily's mother figure. One day Rosaleen goes into town to vote, but being an African American woman in that time period she is denied her right, wherein she is ridiculed and then spits on some men's shoes which lands her in jail. Somehow Lily comes to the rescue and sneaks Rosaleen out of jail, but they don't know where to escape to. Lily's plan is to find a place called Tiburon, which was written on the back of a picture Lily found from her mother's old things. This is when the story truly begins and we're introduced to the three Boatwright sisters who are beekeepers for a living. Rosaleen and Lily are then taken under their wing.
Each of the characters are unique and have a past of their own. I feel as if Sue Monk Kidd did a terrific job embossing each character with their set of specific traits and there was no lack in depth. One of my favorite characters was definitely August. August is patient, compassionate, and inviting in every way. She always knows the right thing to say and how to say it. She is the main beekeeper and definitely wise. Naturally, I loved Lily as well. Although for a majority of the novel she is lying to the Boatwright sisters, Lily is searching for the closure she so desperately craves about her mother.
Kidd has a way with words that makes writing look like you could do it in your sleep. It was more than beautiful writing with effortless prose and descriptions. The imagery was absolutely delightful and she managed to capture the essence of the story perfectly with her writing. It was simple, yet extravagent at the same time, which probably seems like an oxymoron, but trust me, it's a paradox.
The plot flowed as smooth as the honey August and her sisters make! It's not an incredibly long novel to begin with, but it was simply a joy to read. Especially towards the end when the mysteries behind Lily's mother are finally being uncovered. But I also loved the pacing because we learned more and more about each of the sister's history. Like with May and her wailing wall and June with her bitter exterior.
If you've ever once thought about reading The Secret Life of Bees I highly highly recommend you go for it! Also, if you haven't heard about The Secret Life of Bees then I suggest you get your butt to the library or nearest book store and get yourself a copy. I found it was a beautiful novel that was also perfect for the summer since it was set in the summer with an uplifting ending.
Rating: 4 stars - I really liked it. Worth buying.