The Secret Life of Bees: Sue Monk Kidd

This book reminded me of To Kill a Mocking Bird. The narrator in both the books is a girl child. Both have Black people and their rights as one of the main themes. And I loved both the books.

This book is about Lily Owens, a fourteen year old, who lives with the guilt of killing her mother, although accidentally. A fight between her parents turns ugly and Lily accidentally fires the gun and finds her mother dead. Lily cannot forgive herself for doing this and thinks the entire world judges her by this. Her father is not much of a help. Lily finds her repulsive, scary and disappointing.

Rosaleen, a Black woman, is Lily’s housekeeper. She gets in trouble with a bunch of white boys and is imprisoned. Lily musters courage and helps Rosaleen escape from prison and both of them run away from home. They end up in a beekeeper’s house. August, the lady of the house, June, her cynical sister and May, the child at heart find themselves liking Lily and Rosaleen.

Kidd’s writing is poignant and humorous at the same time. The story is told from the kid’s perspective and she questions certain ways of life just like a kid would. The adult in us laughs at the kid’s innocence and is forced to think about the underlying meaning. Kidd creates a world where human lives are so comparable to the life of bees and still not as superior.

Kidd creates memorable characters. August with her head above her shoulders comes out as the perfect housekeeper who knows her stuff. May with her condition of “not being able to differentiate between her own grief and that of the world” evokes sympathy and love. The idea of “the wailing wall” and the little notes she keeps in the crevices tugs at your heart. I almost wished I had such a wall where I could lose myself.

Lily is just what a kid should be – full of questions, curiosities, presumptions and expectations. Her questions are startling and thought provoking. Certain incidents are disturbing. It is interesting that a kid can describe an incident in such a plain manner and it still disturbs you.

An excerpt:

Knowing can be a curse on a person’s life. I’d traded in a pack of lies for a pack of truth, and I don’t know which one was heavier. Which one took the most strength to carry around? It was a ridiculous question, though, because once you know the truth you can’t ever go back and pick up your suitcase of lies. Heavier or not, the truth is yours now.

A quote about bees precedes every chapter of the book. This quote acts like a summary of the chapter. Kidd’s comparison of the queen bee with August, worker bee with May, and in general comparing the bees’ life with ours is simply beautiful. This book is not so much about the life of bees as about ours.

At the end of the book, I had a warm feeling and yet my heart felt heavy. I loved every word of this book and felt bad it got over so soon. I really want to give it a re-read. This is one of those books which remains with you for a long time.

Read this book.

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3 Responses to “The Secret Life of Bees: Sue Monk Kidd”

  1. Jenny Says:

    Yes, this book is on my re-read list also! Captivating. It just embodies childhood so well – the guilt, the curiosity, the need for something miraculous. And it has such a down-home swing to it. Poetic and enchanting and real all at once. I loved it also.

  2. revruth Says:

    We’ve just done it in our Book Group and all loved it – including our token male! I found it very empowering and am dying to see the film when its made.

    Good review.

  3. A new start « What I have been reading… Says:

    […] The Secret Life of Bees has to be the best read of 2008 and Jasper Fforde will be the best tried author. […]


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