The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

76%

31 Critic Reviews

Kidd's success at capturing the moody adolescent girl's voice makes her ambivalence comprehensible and charming. And it's deeply satisfying when August teaches Lily to "find the mother in (herself)"—a soothing lesson that should charm female readers of all ages. (
-Publishers Weekly

Synopsis

The multimillion-copy–bestselling first novel by the author of The Invention of Wings, coming from Viking in January 2014

The Secret Life of Bees was a New York Times bestseller for more than two and a half years, a Good Morning America “Read This” Book Club pick and was made into an award-winning film starring Dakota Fanning, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, and Alicia Keys. A coming of age tale set in South Carolina in 1964, The Secret Life of Bees will appeal to fans of Kathryn Stockett’s The Help and Beth Hoffman’s Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, and tells the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed.

When Lily’s fierce-hearted black “stand-in mother,” Rosaleen, insults three of the town’s most vicious racists, Lily decides they should both escape to Tiburon, South Carolina—a town that holds the secret to her mother’s past. There they are taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters who introduce Lily to a mesmerizing world of bees, honey, and the Black Madonna who presides over their household. This is a remarkable story about divine female power and the transforming power of love—a story that women will continue to share and pass on to their daughters for years to come.
 

About Sue Monk Kidd

See more books from this Author
SUE MONK KIDD is the author of the New York Times bestselling novels, The Secret Life of Bees and The Mermaid Chair, and the memoirs Traveling with Pomegranates, which she wrote with her daughter Ann Kidd Taylor, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, When the Heart Waits, as well as Firstlight, a collection of her early writings. The Secret Life of Bees has spent more than 125 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and was adapted into an award-winning movie starring Dakota Fanning, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson and Alicia Keys. The Mermaid Chair, a #1 New York Times bestseller, was adapted into a television movie. Both of her novels have been translated into more than 24 languages. The recipient of numerous literary awards, Sue lives with her husband on an island off the coast of Florida.
 
Published January 28, 2003 by Penguin Books. 333 pages
Genres: Education & Reference, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction, History, Children's Books, Action & Adventure. Fiction
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Critic reviews for The Secret Life of Bees
All: 31 | Positive: 28 | Negative: 3

Kirkus

Above average
on May 20 2010

By summer’s end, Lily knows a great deal of bee lore and also finds the right moment to learn what really happened to her mother. Despite some dark moments, more honey than vinegar.

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Publishers Weekly

Above average
on Nov 12 2001

Kidd's success at capturing the moody adolescent girl's voice makes her ambivalence comprehensible and charming. And it's deeply satisfying when August teaches Lily to "find the mother in (herself)"—a soothing lesson that should charm female readers of all ages. (

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Blog Critics

Excellent
Reviewed by Vernon Chee on Sep 20 2004

...the controversy reminded me of the hoopla surrounding The Da Vince Code, but not to that extent. To those who hold such beliefs and refuse to read The Secret Life Of Bees because of this, I would say, you are missing a well-crafted piece of literature and an elegantly-written story.

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Entertainment Weekly

Above average
Reviewed by Gillian Flynn on Feb 22 2002

As cliché and cutesy as the story may sound, it's actually quite comforting, thanks to lovely writing and vivid, kind characters.

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About.com Bestsellers

Good
Reviewed by Erin Collazo Miller on Feb 12 2016

It is a lovingly written drama that keeps the pages turning. I highly recommend The Secret Life of Bees, especially to women and women's book clubs.

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About.com Bestsellers

Above average
Reviewed by Erin Collazo Miller on Sep 09 2014

I recommend The Secret Life of Bees. It is a wonderful debut novel that makes a quick and thoughtful weekend read.

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MostlyFiction Book Reviews

Above average
Reviewed by Judi Clark on Jan 20 2014

...while I enjoyed reading this book, with its rich narrative and characters, it does read like a fairy tale. The hideous racism and violence of life in the US, north and south, is not depicted realistically in comparison to the beautiful, pastoral setting and peace of life with the Boatwright women.

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Curious Book Fans

Good
on Dec 21 2013

...not only did Lily come across as a very real character, the sense of place was so good you could almost smell the honey coming off the pages...One or two bits of the plot consequently didn’t quite work for me, but on the whole this was a satisfying read and one that I felt was worth the time I invested in it.

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Story Circle Book Reviews

Above average
Reviewed by Judith Helburn on Oct 04 2002

What a pleasure it is to read a book full of love, hope and miracles. It is a modern fairy tale about Lily—an abused, poor white kid and the black woman who cares for the girl after her mother dies. Lily narrates the story.

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Spirituality & Practice

Good
Reviewed by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat on Sep 09 2014

This story, like all her writing, is characterized by a keen reverence for the healing and transforming power of love.

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Seven Ponds

Above average
Reviewed by Antal Polony on Aug 03 2012

Altogether, this is a very enjoyable book. Though, as is often the case anyways, you might have to tell and remind yourself to enjoy it in the first place.

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Teen Ink

Good
Reviewed by Leslie Y. on Sep 30 2014

The Secret Life of Bees not only appeals to teenagers but also to anyone who appreciates a story that can make you laugh and cry and think about it a week later and laugh and cry all over again. Its message of love and independence shines brightly from its pages and warms your heart, like the sun on a hot, hazy summer day.

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Teen Ink

Above average
Reviewed by LizzieBee on Jan 28 2014

Bees have a great meaning throughout the book. The bees first buzzed around in Lily’s room during the night. They intrigued her and give her the courage to leave T Ray. Bees taught her love. Bees live their life in secret like Lily’s life was a secret to the Boatwright sisters...

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Teen Ink

Above average
Reviewed by bookcrazy on Jan 28 2014

I liked it and it was pretty interesting actually (the bees, the Boatright sisters, the writing style). However, sometimes I felt that the story was unbelievable, too dramatic, and extended unnecessarily.

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Teen Ink

Excellent
Reviewed by run295 on Jan 28 2014

The Secret Life of Bees is one of my favorite books of all time for its captivating story line, and amazing female characters. It is an incredible journey of following, watching, and going through the pain and joy of the remarkable protagonist, Lily Owens. If you enjoy a spectacular story line...this book is for you!

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Teen Ink

Above average
Reviewed by Shannon B., Oxford on Jan 28 2014

The characters seem so real that I could picture each with her particular feelings. However, a slow plot and excessive details were weaknesses...Overall The Secret Life of Bees was very enjoyable. From the heartbreaking moments to the heartwarming ones, it will not disappoint.

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Teen Ink

Good
Reviewed by Macy M., Miami on Feb 07 2012

This book absolutely grabbed me and made me read. As my eyes sprinted over the words, I began to feel the characters’ pain and emotions...Lily’s mission is to find out about her mother’s mysterious past and who she really was. Bravery. Racism. Love. Those are the words that represent this story best.

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Teen Ink

Good
Reviewed by itchyriver on Jul 22 2011

The Secret Life of Bees marries together a great deal of themes, symbols, and ideas that all help to shape Lily Owens. Through the people she meets, the stories she hears, the events she witnesses, and the knowledge she gains, Lily grows from an abused young girl into a strong young woman

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Teen Ink

Good
Reviewed by Bapalapa2 on Feb 25 2010

The Secret Life of Bees is a wonderful novel. Lily escapes from her father, masters the art of making honey, and learns of the mystery of the Black Madonna. The reader will learn about a time of friendship and hatred in one of the greatest turning points of America.

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Book Loons

Above average
Reviewed by Marian Powell on Jan 28 2014

And Lily learns more than she ever wanted to know about the injustices of the world and the truth about her parents. If the book stopped there, it would be an angry, unsatisfying story. Wisely, it moves on. It is not enough for Lily to learn the truth, she must learn the truth of her own heart...

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Always With A Book

Good
Reviewed by Kristin on Feb 07 2014

This is the type of book that stays with you long after you finish the book. The lyrical writing, the characters, the setting all combine to create such a powerful story.

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Lit Lovers

Above average
Reviewed by Molly Lundquist on Mar 01 2007

The book is replete with metaphors: the beehive, honey, and queen bee stand in for concepts of home, love, and the uber-feminine...Still, I enjoyed reading Bees, very much. Kidd's prose is light and fluid, creating a fable-like aura in parts. And Lily's adolescent voice is perfectly pitched.

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https://suite101.com

Above average
Reviewed by Melissa Howard on Jan 10 2009

There are novels that are motivated by complex plots; there are novels peopled with memorable characters; and there are novels with fascinating factual frameworks. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd uses all three devices to create a compelling and enjoyable book.

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The Novel World

Good
Reviewed by Nari on Aug 18 2008

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd is a very heartfelt and touching coming of age story centered around fourteen year old Lily Owens in 1964 South Carolina. ...Kidd had a strong variety of themes running through the novel; social commentary on racism in the south, religious theme...

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Tiny Library

Above average
Reviewed by Sam on Aug 19 2011

I thought the topic was interesting, and the real strength of the book was the way that I got such a sense of time and place...But I couldn't love this book. The main problem was that it was too sweet and saccharine...I did enjoy the book and it was hard to put down, but it's not one I would pick up again.

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A Novel Menagerie

Good
Reviewed by Sheri on Jan 28 2014

I’m allergic to bee stings. Because of this, I am terrified of bees. This book teaches you to be still and just send the bees love. The bees will feel your love and will not sting you. I’m going to try it! For the genre Fiction:Women’s/Historical:American, I am going to rate this book a 9 OUT OF 10.

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A Fantastical Librarian

Above average
Reviewed by Mieneke on Feb 22 2014

While I really enjoyed The Secret Life of Bees, on closer consideration it’s very much a flawed novel, but still one worth reading if one takes its flaws into account.

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Book Loving Mommy

Excellent
Reviewed by Book Loving Mommy on Oct 16 2010

It was a heart-warming novel that I think every young girl should read. It was easy to read and I never once found it moving slowly or found myself being bored at all...All in all, I have to say that I absolutely fell in love with this coming-of-age book! I would reccomend this book to anyone and everyone!

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One Librarian's Book Reviews

Good
Reviewed by Melissa on Mar 27 2010

There is just something about a story like this...where a young girl manages to rise above the tragedies in her life, even if she is the author of some of those tragedies. Thoughtful, interesting, a book to be savored. I kept marking passages that I found beautiful or poignant and ended up with way too many to share here.

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https://astripedarmchair.wordpress.com

Above average
Reviewed by Eva on Jul 01 2007

That casual perusal turned into a day-long marathon reading session; I simply couldn’t put the book down. When I finished it, I had that satisfied reader’s glow.

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https://bookjourney.wordpress.com

Good
Reviewed by Sheila on Mar 11 2014

If you have not yet treated yourself to The Secret Life Of Bees I encourage you to do so. You are in for a sweet experience.

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Reader Rating for The Secret Life of Bees
85%

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