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50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can't keep this a secret
A truly charming book, wonderfully written, moving and heart-warming with a spiritual core. The main character is Lily, a motherless teenager who has been brought up by her bitter, angry father. Lily's journey to find something or someone to answer the questions and fill the gap that her mother's death has left within her takes her to a mesmerizing, soulful place in the...
Published on 31 Jan 2009 by b.lops

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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good book group choice
I had read this book once before it was chosen as our book group choice, but I read it again anyway. I probably enjoyed it more the second time around, but I would have to say that this a good book rather than a great one.

The story is quite sweet and simple. A young white girl, Lily, and a black servant, Rosaleen, leave the family home and with a bit of...
Published on 27 Mar 2012 by Jan


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, 4 Oct 2013
By 
Sue W (Tongwynlais, Cardiff United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Secret Life of Bees (Kindle Edition)
A superb book, so heart wrenching in places. I first borrowed this book and after reading it had to buy my own copy so that I would always have it. I've since bought the DVD and while it does differ slightly it is very true to the book and has the ability to reduce me to tears in places.
Well worth reading and owning.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Adore this story, 17 Sep 2013
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I LOVE this book, read after seeing the film, I wished I had read it years ago. A beautiful uplifting story which will make you laugh and cry.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Like honey to the bee, 7 Mar 2012
By 
This is a review by Burry Port Bookworms:

Lily is 14 years old when the book begins and has been brought up by her father T-Ray who is a tyrant, never showing any affection for the girl. She is a constant reminder of his wife and the strange circumstances surrounding her death.

Lily runs away from home on a mission to find out more about her mother and the journey she takes, along with their black housekeeper Rosaleen, leads her to a honey farm and the three black sisters who keep it in business. There is emphasis on the importance of Christianity in the life of the sisters and their iconic `Black Madonna' that features on the labels for the honey.

May Boatwright is the most sensitive and fragile of the sisters. Her twin died and she has found solace from the pain she feels personally and for others by building a wailing wall to post notes. August Boatwright, the eldest of the sisters at the honey farm, binds the women together. She understands her family and the weaknesses of human nature. We discussed the interpretation of `Queen Bee'. Was August, as the matriarch of the family keeping everyone focussed on their responsibilities `Queen Bee' because people automatically did what they were asked by her? Or was it her position because she was the one responsible for the productivity of the family unit/the hive. Perhaps there is not really much difference?

We also talked about the tendency for women to gather in insular social groups and get to know each other very well. It was felt that men were probably more competitive by nature and generally interested in discussing a limited range of subjects such as sports.

Lots of `firsts' in the story make extremely convenient highlights: votes for blacks, colleges for blacks and the forbidden fruit - Lily's first love, a crush on August Boatwright's godson, Zach. Our group all perservered with this book to the end and most of us agreed that it was worthwhile. With stereo-typical characters, a methodical & predictable plot it could have been just another novel about a tortured, adolescent genius during the racial disharmony of 1960s southern states of America.

We ended by talking about the possibility of a future relationship between Lily and her father. It would probably hinge on them forgiving each other for huge mistakes in their past. T-Ray not only tormented his daughter physically, but he said that she was abandoned by Deborah before her death and makes the accusation that, as a four year old, Lily pulled the trigger that caused her mother's death.

Our average vote gave this book 6/10.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Secret Life of Bees, 17 Mar 2006
By 
DevJohn01 (Somerset, NJ) - See all my reviews
My mother read this book over a year ago and raved about how good it was, at the time I had no desire to pick it up but as time went on I began to hear more and more about `THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES' and my curiosity was piqued. So when it was chosen as March's selection for my book club I was eager to get started. Now that I have finished it I must admit that I have somewhat mixed feelings about this first fiction novel by Sue Monk Kidd. On one hand I think that it was a great first effort and a very engaging story, on the other hand I felt as though it tended to drag on in some areas. I believe that a great novel should keep you talking and make for a great debate but `THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES' didn't leave me with a whole lot to say about it when I was done. I did, however, feel that there were many great themes throughout this book, such as finding a sense of home in a place other than where you grew up, and how important it is for women to come together and support one another no matter their race or religion. Also some of the racial matters discussed in the book were very striking, we tend to forget how different things were just over four decades ago, at times I had to remind myself that this story takes place in 1964 not 1864. Overall I cannot deny that I enjoyed `THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES' and that I am glad that I finally know what all the buzz was about, 3.75 Stars!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Easy to read, enjoyable yarn set in deep south, 25 Sep 2002
By 
30several (coventry, uk) - See all my reviews
I sped through this book and found it very difficult to put down as I was enjoying it so much. Set in South Carolina in the 60s, it conjures up poignant images of the "deep south", and Sue Monk Kidd has created some wonderful characters in the Boatwright sisters who have created their own religion - "The Daughters of Mary", worshipping a black Mary, something the lead character Lily, a white girl, finds fascinating and longs to be a part of.
Whilst staying at the Boatwright sisters home on the run from her sadistic father and the police, Lily begins to learn about life, love, and the mystery surrounding her mother, who died when Lily was tiny.
I would wholeheartedly recommend this book.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good book group choice, 27 Mar 2012
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I had read this book once before it was chosen as our book group choice, but I read it again anyway. I probably enjoyed it more the second time around, but I would have to say that this a good book rather than a great one.

The story is quite sweet and simple. A young white girl, Lily, and a black servant, Rosaleen, leave the family home and with a bit of detective work and the most amazing coincidence they end up in the house of a family of women beekeepers who had previously given sanctuary to the girl's mother, who had died when Lily was very young. The book did provoke a lively discussion which is exactly what you want for a reading group. It was inevitably compared to "The Help" which we had also read as a group. The treatment of the race relations issue in each of the two books, which is really the only issue that the two books have in common, caused a quite a disagreement and it was hard to move the discussion on. We did however also manage to talk about Lily's need to find out more about her mother and her mother's troubled life, and it became clear that some of us found the constant and rather sickly references to honey a bit much to take!

This was however a really good choice for a reading group as some people loved it to bits and others didn't. Divided opinions certainly make for an interesting discussion!
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sweet As Honey - But More Fairy Tale Than True To Life,, 11 July 2005
Fourteen year-old Lily Melissa Owens has been a motherless child for ten years now. It fills her with anguish to think that she, at age four, had a hand in the accidental shooting death of Deborah Fontanel Owens, her own mother. Lily's life has been shaped around this incident, and she has never ceased to yearn for her mother, (for a mother's love), although her memories of the actual woman have been blurred by time. In fact, Lily has very little memory of that dark day's events, and is totally dependent on her miserable, sadistic father, T. Ray Owens, for any and all accounts of her mom. The only person who shows her any affection is Rosaleen, a black peach-picker T. Ray brought in from the fields to care for his child.
At fourteen, Lily is extremely bright, loves to read and has a talent for writing. One of her teachers has encouraged her to think about a college education, although her father tells her she will be lucky to go to beauty school. On July 4, 1964, Lily's birthday, she walks Rosaleen to town so the black woman can register to vote. President Lyndon B. Johnson just signed into effect the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and Rosaleen feels pride in doing her civic duty, as does Lily in accompanying her. The two are harassed by three white men, one of whom is the biggest racist in town. When Rosaleen tries to defend herself, she and Lily are thrown in jail. In reality, back then in the American South, given what Rosaleen did to defend herself, and to whom she did it, she very well could have been beaten to death on the spot. T. Ray picks up his daughter almost immediately, and painfully punishes the girl. She manages to escape, though, and to break Rosaleen out of the hospital where she is recovering from her afternoon's encounter with Jim Crowe.
One of the few mementoes Lily has of her mother is a small picture of a black Madonna with the words, Tiburon, S. C. on the back. Lily has saved some money from selling peaches at her father's roadside stand, and is certain that if she and Rosaleen can reach Tiburon, she will find out about her Momma, and they will somehow be safe. And, sure enough, in Tiburon, S. C. Lily finds a connection between her Madonna picture and a trio of fairy godmother-like women - the calendar sisters May, June, and August Boatwright. These black spinster sisters live in a Pepto-Bismol pink-colored house, on a large tract of land outside of town. They keep bees, sell honey and other bee by-products, and their label, the Black Madonna Honey Company, is the same as the picture keepsake that Lily has from her mother. It is here that Lily learns, among many things, that "without a queen, the hive will die." She understands that she must replace her own queen, her dead mother, or she will shrivel-up inside.
August Boatwright, Mother Figure, (with capital letters!), earth mother, and Madonna all-in-one, takes Lily and Rosaleen in without question, gives them jobs and a home - at least temporarily, until they can live and grow in an environment which will allow them to thrive. And along the way Lily will learn some basic truths, common for both bees and people.
All kinds of neat tidbits and facts about bees, their lives, habits, care, beekeeping in general, and honey production are woven throughout the book, and the details are fascinating. Each chapter is headed with a quotation about bees. However, as important and interesting as bees are as themes in "The Secret Life Of Bees," sometimes the narrative is too sweet and sugary for my taste.
Sue Monk Kidd writes beautifully, lyrically, about a southern white girl's unusual coming of age. However, the novel reads, frequently, like fantasy fiction. Now, I enjoy a beautiful story, especially when the author is as talented as this one, but I grew up in the 1950's and 60's, and the history I recollect is far different from this book's version. I clearly remember what the times were like when President Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and when Schwerner, Cheney & Goodman were murdered in Mississippi, and when Ms. Fanny Lou Hamer challenged white domination of the Mississippi Democratic Party. I was at the Democratic Convention in 1964 in Atlantic City, as a student delegate, when Ms. Hamer and her colleagues entered Convention Hall. Sue Monk Kidd's bucolic Sylvan, South Carolina, and the little town of Tiburon, are poetic, magical places - in spite of rampant racism. One character is badly beaten, but not killed - she is actually able to walk out of the hospital within 24 hours. Another is unjustly jailed, but set free after a day or so - and not harmed? A strange white girl just moves in with a family of black women, in rural SC, and no one makes a helluva hullabaloo? And I shudder to think of a white teenage girl driving around in a car, in the front seat, with a black teenage male - in 1964 South Carolina. This would not be believable in many northern cities at the time - but it was unthinkable in the south. That poor guy would have never made it alive to the jailhouse!!
So let me stop here and say, that while I enjoyed reading this book, with its rich narrative and characters, it does read like a fairy tale. The hideous racism and violence of life in the US, north and south, is not depicted realistically in comparison to the beautiful, pastoral setting and peace of life with the Boatwright women. I do hope readers realize that much poetic licence has been taken here in terms of what this difficult period was like in US history.
It's interesting to note, I think, that Lily's ideal home, almost heaven, is depicted as being among black women. There used to be many white children, in the south, (and in the north), during the 1960's and before, who received a primary source of love and care from black women, hired to work for their families. I am sure this warm, loving fantasy is not uncommon.
JANA
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too Sweet, 1 Jun 2013
By 
Jo D'Arcy (Portsmouth, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
Lily believes that she killed her mother. She has lived with this since she was a small child, and as now she starts to blossom out into adolescence, she is struck with the desperate need for love from a mother. Her father does not provide her with any love at all. The only love she seems to have is from Rosaleen, the black servant.

However, a young white girl and a black servant's friendship is going to cause tension in the American South of the mid sixties. When Rosaleen gets arrested and cruelly beaten for nothing other than her skin colour, Lily suddenly realises the sort of world she is living in now, she wants to change it. With Rosaleen and Lily now on the run, they find sanctuary in a place which has been a reference point to Lily in her childhood - the name of a place on the back of a picture of Mary as Negro which her mother had chosen to keep.

By chance this image is portrayed on jars of honey and it leads Lily to the pink house and three negro sisters, August, June and May who take in Lily and Rosaleen and teach them about the life of bees. As Lily soon discovers it is very different life to the one she has been used to and the love that she gets from nurturing and learning about bees, the devotion and love of the Daughters of Mary as well as inter-racial friendships are perhaps a rite of passage for her. She can now move forward from the death of her mother in a very changing world.

I really wanted to like this book, but I could not. I felt that it perhaps did not deal strongly enough with the racial tension and I would have liked to have learnt more about the impact that made, I did not learn anything about this time from this book. I learnt a lot about bee keeping and that was interesting, which I acknowledge, but I felt that at times that over took the real point of the book. Also the over the top worship of the Black Mary was cringe worthy and felt rather cult like at times.

Lily as a narrator was okay, but it would have made a richer read for me if perhaps we could hear Rosaleen or August's voice. These were strong women who had their own stories to tell and I think they would have made much more interesting reading than Lily's story. What was excellent was the way the author described the intense heat of the place, the smells and the way the weather changes everything - it added to the mood of the characters very well.

I can tick the book off to say I have read it but it has not really stayed with me and I feel rather disappointed by that.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sweet, 21 Dec 2006
By 
I have made it a point of reading inspirational books which can help me have a positive outlook to life. Though it reads like a non-fictional memoir, "The Secret Life of Bees" even though it is fictitious, has been tremendously helpful to me as an inspirational book. It is brilliantly written with amazing details and beautiful settings. It showed the unique creativity of the author. This hard to put down book, is sure to capture your heart with its imagery.

Sue Monk Kidd does a brilliant job of laying out a storyline that is not only believable, but is interesting as well. I could not put this book down. Lily Owens will capture your heart. Despite the abuse from the hands of her father T. Ray, she turned out to be a survivor. Sharing her destiny with the beekeeping sisters, and their Black Madonna honey, she finally attains some emotional security in her life. May, one of the sisters is someone who inspires. This is a novel for young adults and adults, because at 14, Lily fights with the hazy memory of her dead mother whom she misses and longs for in rural South Carolina of 1964, where racial violence is inescapable. She finds solace in her surrogate mother - the family's black servant, Rosaleen, who later becomes a victim of racial hatred. It moved on to the escape of Lily and Rosaleen, the search for the identity of Lily's mother's identity and the quest for a sense of belonging in her life This journey led Lily and Rosaleen into the lives of three strange but alluring beekeepers who set Lily who helped Lily to grow up and be at peace with her family and its history.

The story is told through Lily's eyes, mouth, mind and heart, and as such it is deep, hilarious and inspiring. When we read about the beehive and honey-making, we get the sense that Lily has a deep desire for nurturance, owing to the absence of a mother in her life. The Secret Life of Bees will certainly strike a chord with any family.Recommended stories are USURPER AND OTHER STORY, TALES OF BURNING LOVE,TRIPLE GENT DOUBLE CROSS, NO SECOND CHANCE, in the sense that they go to add to this rich theme.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Trembling on the edge of wish-fulfilment, 10 Sep 2009
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
Drenched in sentimentality, this could have been a real pain to read, but the sentiment is honey-coated by the extraordinary resonance of the bee keeping setting of the plot. Lily is a motherless child left in the care of her work-worn and rather brutal father. Their black housekeeper Rosaleen is a godsend, but one day she sets out to register her vote, as the new Civil Rights legislation, enacted by President Johnson, gives her the right to do. What happens next leads to Rosaleen being branded a criminal and indirectly to Rosaleen and Lily fleeing in terror and finally alighting upon the remarkable black household of the sisters August, May and June, beekeepers and honey producers for the surrounding area. Led there by the picture of a black Madonna which is almost the only artefact of her mother's left to little Lily, she later finds that her mother has an even greater connection to the sisters than she first thought. The background of civil rights and white extremism is competently painted-in, if somewhat simplistically reflected in the plot.

This is a reasonably good read, though some of the improbabilities take it out of the realm of authenticity and leave it trembling on the edge of wish-fulfilment.
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The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
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