The Secret Life of Bees

by Lara Killian

29 September 2008


This weekend I finished reading Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees. This book is very readable and has a number of thought-provoking themes, taking place as it does in the summer of 1964 in South Carolina when racial tensions ran high.


Lily, the protagonist, is a white teenager whose life has been full of misery, her mother having died in an accident when she was a toddler, and her father sinking deeper into anger and violent tendencies over the years. Fed up, Lily runs away and take with her the few mementos of her mother that have survived, including a strange picture of a Black Madonna.

Lily’s wild nature and spontaneous actions are offset by the calm presence of August, the black beekeeper whose home Lily ends up invading, led to it by the Black Madonna, in a way. The personalities of Lily and August keep this book wonderfully balanced. They’re both quirky in their own right; Lily notices that in August’s bedroom, “On her dressing table, where less interesting people would’ve put a jewelry box or a picture frame, August had a fish aquarium turned upside down with a giant piece of honeycomb inside it.” Later on, Lily takes to carrying around a pile of mouse bones in her pocket. “Every day I carried them around in my pocket and could not imagine why I was doing it.”

Such details, along with the intense racial and emotional themes that permeate this book, make Kidd a great storyteller. I’m glad this book landed in my hands.

What are you reading this week?

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