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Trade Reviews

  Library Journal Review

In 1964 South Carolina, 14-year-old Lily is seeking to escape her abusive father through her fantasies about her deceased mother. She has few mementos of Deborah, but chief among them is a mysterious picture of a black Madonna. She runs away with her servant to Tiburon, SC, and to the Black Madonna Honey company, where middle-aged sisters May, June, and August take the two fugitives in and introduce them to the ways of beekeeping and the sisterhood of Our Lady of Chains. The predictability of the plot is well balanced by the author's descriptions and Lily's increasing struggles with the truth about her mother's past. Read by Karen White, this is a well-paced and crafted Gothic debut that mixes humor with tragedy. Highly recommended.-Joyce Kessel, Villa Maria Coll., Buffalo, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Booklist Review

Kidd's warm debut is set in the sixties, just after the civil rights bill has been passed. Fourteen-year-old Lily Owens is haunted by the accidental death of her mother 10 years earlier, which left her in the care of her brutal, angry father but also Rosaleen, a strong, proud black woman. After Rosaleen is thrown into jail for standing up to a trio of racists, Lily helps her escape from the hospital where she is being kept, and the two flee to Tiburon, a town Lily believes her mother had a connection to. A clue among her mother's possessions leads Lily to the Boatwright sisters, three black women who keep bees. They give Lily and Rosaleen the haven they need, but Lily remains haunted by her mother's death and her own involvement in it. Although she fears her father is looking for her, Lily manages to find solace among the strong women who surround her and, eventually, the truth about her mother that she has been seeking. An uplifting story. --Kristine Huntley

  Kirkus Review

A wonderfully written debut that rather scants its subject of loss and discovery-a young girl searching for the truth about her dead mother-in favor of a feminist fable celebrating the company of women and the ties between that mothers and daughters. The prose is lapidary, the characters diverse, and the story unusual as it crosses the color line, details worship of a black Virgin Mary, and extensively describes the lives and keeping of bees. But despite these accomplishments, the fabulist elements (bees as harbingers of death, a statue with healing powers) seem more whimsical than credible and ultimately detract from the story itself. Lily Owens, just about to turn 14, narrates this tale set in South Carolina during July 1964. Since her mother died when she was four, Lily has been raised by African-American Rosaleen and by her sadistic father T. Ray Owens, a peach farmer who keeps reminding Lily that she killed her mother. When Rosaleen is arrested and beaten for trying to vote, Lily springs her from the hospital, and they head to the town of Tiburon because its name is on the back of a cross that belonged to Lily's mother. On the front is a picture of a black Madonna who can also be seen on the labels of jars of honey produced in Tiburon by local beekeeper Augusta Boatwright. Certain the secret to her mother's past lies in Tiburon, Lily persuades Augusta to take them in. As the days pass she helps with the bees; meets handsome young African-American Zach; becomes convinced her mother knew Augusta; and is introduced to the worship of Our Lady of Chains, a wooden statue of Mary that since slavery has had special powers. 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.
Summary
The multi-million bestselling novel about a young girl's journey towards healing and the transforming power of love, from the award-winning author of The Invention of Wings<br> <br> Set in South Carolina in 1964, The Secret Life of Bees 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 deepest racists in town, Lily decides to spring them both free. They escape to Tiburon, South Carolina--a town that holds the secret to her mother's past. Taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sister, Lily is introduced to their mesmerizing world of bees and honey, and the Black Madonna. This is a remarkable novel about divine female power, a story that women will share and pass on to their daughters for years to come.
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