Lily Owens grew up motherless. Her father resents her because it was Lily who was accidentally responsible for his wife's death. At least that's what she has been told. Lily finds herself drawn to her black housekeeper and mother figure, Rosaleen. After an incident in town, Rosaleen and Lily are arrested. It was later that night when Lily made the decision to break Rosaleen out of jail and search for answers about her mother. With $35, a week's worth of clothes, and the only pieces of her mother she has, Lily and Rosaleen are on the run as a young white girl and black housekeeper. Lily follows the only clue about her mother she has- a picture of a negro virgin Mary with the words "Tiburon" on the back.
Following this picture leads her and Rosaleen to the doorstep of the "calendar sisters": August, June, and May. Desperately seeking answers but afraid of the outcome, Lily puts off asking the three sisters about knowing her mother or telling them the truth about where she and Rosaleen came from. August takes her in as one of their own and begins to teach her the ways of beekeeping and selling honey. Throughout the weeks Lily stays with the sisters, she begins to discover pieces of her past, her present, and herself that help to guide her. She discovers love, faith, finding herself in a world where she shouldn't belong, and how to forgive her mother, but more importantly herself.
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd is a coming of age story that takes place right as the Civil Rights Movement was beginning. Lily is fourteen and makes a brave decision that kick starts the beginning of her life. This story is similar to The Help in the sense that it shows strong female presence in a world where black and white are supposed to be separate. Lily is young when she leaves home, and although the book only takes place within a few months, it appears she has grown a few years by the end.
One of the quotations from the book : "People, in general, would rather die than forgive. It's that hard. If God
said in plain language, "I'm giving you a choice, forgive or die," a
lot of people would go ahead and order their coffin". This stuck with me because throughout the entire novel Lily struggles with forgiving her mother, father, and herself. Forgiveness is a hard concept, but it's something everyone struggles with. I have been struggling with forgiveness for a few months now, so I think that is why I fell in love with this book so much. It is important to take in the world that August and her sisters provide for Lily because each of us has had a similar situation where it seemed we would rather be angry than let go.
Lily's coming of age journey is definitely uplifting, spiritual, and puts into perspective the time period. Lily discovers who she is in a place where she shouldn't belong, she finds out the answers she has been craving, and she begins to let go and realize she is enough in this world.
I had to read this book because I am teaching it as a summer reading option come September, but I am so glad I did. It really was a quick read, but such a feel good one for the summer. I did purchase the movie through Amazon so I can show it in class, but if it's anything like The Help, I look forward to it. This book really does give perspective and shows you that you are worth it, and even in a world where you might not fully belong, it is possible to find yourself and move forward. Truly amazing.