Yes, yes, I know, the book has been out for a while the movie came out a couple of years ago. Come on, cut me some slack, I was working and going to college; I had plenty to read already.
The Secret Life of Bees is a very sweet story about a young girl in search for love; that is maternal/parental love.
The story unfolds in 1964 South Carolina. Lily is a fourteen year old girl living in her father’s peach farm just outside the rural town of Sylvan. T. Ray, Lily’s father, is a cold and sometimes cruel man who has no affection or interest in Lily.
As for Lily’s mother, she’s dead. Lily only has blurred memories and dreams of the afternoon her mother was killed.
After the death of her mother, T. Ray hires one of his workers, a large black woman named Rosaleen, to be Lily’s nanny. Rosaleen raises Lily and becomes a sort of stand-in-mother, but Lily only fantasizes about her actual mother and how things would be so different if she lived.
One afternoon, after the passing of the Civil Rights Act, Rosaleen and Lily head into town so Rosaleen can register to vote. On their way to the voter registration, Rosaleen gets into a scuffle with three of the most racist men in town. Rosaleen ends up arrested, beaten, and in the hospital. Meanwhile, T. Ray doles out one of his favorite punishments to Lily, called “The Martha Whites,” for having been out with Rosaleen.
After an epiphany, Lily springs Rosaleen from the hospital and they both make their escape to Tiburon, South Carolina—a town that holds the secret of her mother’s past. Lily and Rosaleen are taken in by the eccentric, bee-keeping “Calendar Sisters,” who introduce Lily to the secret life of bees and the mysterious Black Madonna.
What unfolds is a whirlwind of lies and ultimately truths.
This is a truly heart-warming story. I really enjoyed reading this book; it touches on so many themes: loss, loneliness, faith, love, and searching for self. It’s a fast read—I finished it in a couple of days—and it’s a good start after a long spell of non-reading.
To any men reading this, I’ll be perfectly honest, this is chick-lit. More than likely you will find it hard to relate to any of the characters as the only ones that are fleshed out are the females. There are a few good guys (Zach, Neil, Clayton) in the book but they are flat, secondary, and play to stereotypes.
Overall, I give The Secret Life of Bees a solid three stars out of five. While a good read, I don’t like it enough to go out and buy it—sorry, back to the library Bees.