“We can’t think of changing our skin color. Change the world — that’s how we gotta think.” – Sue Monk Kidd (The Secret Life of Bees)
“The Secret Life of Bees” Review
This post may contain spoilers.
I first read this book when I was going into the ninth grade, I believe, a little over ten years ago. I remember believing that it was one of the better books I had ever been assigned during my school career, and the book was better the second time around.
The story revolves around Lily, a fourteen year old who had lost her mother at a young age and was stuck with her abusive father on his peach farm. Set in South Carolina in 1964, it’s a period piece that shows off the casual racism that prevailed at the time. When Lily’s housekeeper and “stand-in-mother” Rosaleen insults some white men, Lily finds it high time to get out of her unloving house and for the two of them to travel to the last place Lily believes her mother had been.
Lily and Rosaleen meet with the Boatwright sisters — August, June, and May — who live in a house that’s painted the tackiest shade of pink Lily had ever seen, and the sisters are gracious enough to let Lily and Rosaleen work with them until they got back on their feet. August is a beekeeper and June is a teacher while playing music in funeral homes while May keeps house. Using the bees and hives as unique learning tools, August especially helps Lily come to terms with her past and her late mother’s life.
With the sisters, Lily learns valuable life lessons in growing up in this coming-of-age novel. Lily understands prejudice in her world to a certain degree, and even she admits that she had some inside of herself throughout the book. By the end, Lily learns that one can find love everywhere, especially inside oneself, and that family doesn’t always have to be blood.
There are definitely bittersweet themes throughout the story, but it all comes together wonderfully in the end.
“The Secret Life of Bees” gets a 5 out of 5 stars.