Book Review: The Secret Life of Bees

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Name of the book: The Secret Life of Bees

Name of the Author:  Sue Monk Kidd

Year of publishing: 2001

The publisher: Penguin Books

Number of Pages: 336

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Main Characters: Lily Owens, Rosaleen, August Boatwright, June Boatwright, May Boatwright, Terrence Owens( T Ray)

The story:

A 14-year-old Lily Owens lives with her dad on a peach farm in rural South Carolina in 1964. She leads a miserable life with her abusive dad. According to her, he doesn’t deserve the title “ Dad”. She calls him T. Ray.

Lily’s mom died ten years ago. The only memory of her mom is the day of her mom’s death. She doesn’t exactly know what had happened that day.

Regardless of all, the presence of Rosleen, the black housekeeper, is the only consolation for Lily. But one day, Rosaleen was beaten up by some racist white men; consequently, they ended up in jail. Lily helps her to get out of jail and both of them decide to take off together to another place. After spending days aimlessly around the new place, they finally end up in a Pink sanctuary- The pink house of the beekeeping sister-May, June and August. In Lily’s words “The Calendar sisters”. The rest of the story revolves around Lily Rosaleen and the sisters in their new shelter.

My views on theme, Plot, and characters:

This was the second book of Monk Kidd after reading Mermaid chair. I wasn’t really impressed by the first book. However, having read a lot of positive reviews of The secret life of Bees, I chose to read The Secret Life of Bees anyway.

The very first line of the first chapter told me that I am going to love this girl and her story. What do you think? Have a look!

At night I would lie in bed and watch the show, how bees squeezed through the cracks of my bedroom wall and flew circles around the room, making that propeller sound, a high-pitched zzzzzz that hummed along my skin”.

I fell in love with the story instantly. The first few pages were mostly a mix of humor and sadness.

Lily’s dad, T-ray is rude, indifferent and heartless. Furthermore, he hardly gives the care and pampering a motherless child deserves. Therefore, Lily is lonely most of the time. She chose to remain silent to his rude remarks. She defines it as “ The art of survival”.

But whenever Rosaleen is around I find her drifting from moody to energetic. Surprisingly, Lily has a great sense of humor. In fact, I loved Lily for making me laugh throughout the book with her wittiest comments. For instance, she calls herself as “ The pet guinea pig” of Rosaleen- the housekeeper. I really enjoyed the bond between Lily and her housekeeper-cum-nanny.

On the other hand, I find Rosaleen an unusual woman in her own way.

In Lily’s words,

Rosaleen’s age was a mystery,

since she didn’t possess a birth certificate.

She would tell me she was born in 1909 or

1919 depending on how old she felt at that moment”.

Rosaleen had thrown her husband out after three years of their marriage. She describes her husband:

“ You put his brain in a bird, the bird would fly backward”.

The members of the Pink house have a lot to offer to the readers. The elder sister- August is Strong and Empathetic. While June, the second, pretends to be tough. Whereas, May, the youngest is a kind-hearted poor soul. I loved the fact that the story unfolds in such a way that readers are able to join each character in their agonies and mirths. Above all, not so often that you come across a story which has all the engaging elements such as humour, hope, forgiveness, romance & sisterhood.

Although, some parts of “Beekeeping” which Kidd describes to the readers wasn’t entirely interesting to me. I soon realise that it wasn’t just “the bees” Kidd was talking about after all.

Also, certain events in the book draws our attention to the important aspects of racialism in America. Yet, I wouldn’t really label that as the main theme of the book. For me, this is a story of a child’s pursuit of a prosperous life she deserves.

However, I must say I was slightly disappointed to see that the book ended too soon. I wanted to see more of Lily and her life in Pink House.

There is something special about the books which narrates the life of a child. Besides being an easy read, I always find them fascinating. Most importantly, I think readers can get instantly connected with the character of a child. At least that’s what this book did it to me.


I recommend the secret life of bees to anybody who love to take off a weekend trip to South Carolina, to the house of Beekeepers. A beautiful story worth spending your time.

Would you like to give it a read? Then pick it from the library or buy now from Amazon

Time for your action:

If you were a Calendar sister which month would you choose?  For Lily it was October. For me it is July- my birth month. I am curious to know yours! Also, I would love to hear whether you recommend any books of Sue Monk. Leave me a comment or mail me at [email protected]

Stephy George
Stephy George

Hi I am Stephy ! I became a bookworm in my late twenties. So I created this little corner of books online to share my love of reading with YOU! I want to help you find the best books to read so you won’t ever have to worry about your next read!

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