In this beautiful and exceptionally-written coming-of-age novel, The Secret Life of Bees, author Sue Monk Kidd transports us to a 1960s South Carolina summer. Young Lily and her black housekeeper, Rosaleen, are on the run from Lily’s abusive father. Meanwhile, a group of racist white men are after Rosaleen for insulting them. Following the lead of a relic from Lily’s deceased mother, they take refuge in the beautiful home of three beekeeping women of color: sisters August, June, and May.
Although their calendar names may be confusing at first, each sister’s personality is unique and well-established from the others. Assertive August is a “queen bee” and leader-type. She is equally firm yet warmhearted, and interacts the most with Lily. June is rigid; she constantly refuses her boyfriend’s requests to marry him, and takes longer to display any affection, but readers will rightfully suspect she is protecting against a deeper sorrow within. Lastly, May is called “special.” Whether it’s due to mental illness is unclear, but sweet, sensitive May has the compassion of a saint and suffers on behalf of the world. When she hears something tragic, even if it happened to strangers, she cannot detach herself from the event, and lives in mourning as though it had happened to her.
Lily struggles with guilt and sorrow over the death of her mother, all the while fearing that her father will find her and force her to return home with him. But in learning beekeeping, falling into a forbidden interracial romance, and discovering a spiritual path of the divine feminine through the sisters’ patron Black Madonna, young Lily embarks on a deep inner-journey of growth and healing.
This is an incredible book and one of my forever favorites. Kidd is a phenomenal writer and had me thoroughly invested emotionally, mentally, and spiritually in her setting, voice, and characters. I love this book and recommend it to women everywhere.