by Sue Monk Kidd (read Feb 2003)
I loved this book - wonderful characters, well written, compelling, forceful and just a tinge of mystery about each character's earlier life. I look forward to reading more from this author.The Secret Life of Bees
is the touching story of a young white girl, fourteen year old Lily Owens, whose mother died in a tragic accident when Lily was about four. Lily lives with her father, a harsh man with whom no love is lost, on a peach farm outside Sylvan, South Carolina. Her mother's death stands between them.
Neglected by her father, Lily is brought up by Rosaleen, a big-hearted black woman, who loves Lily and whom Lily loves. Yet, hers is a lonely existence, compounded by her unquenched thirst for information about her mother, Deborah. All she has left of her mother are some cloudy memories and a box containing a few mementos, among them a picture of a Black Madonna, inscribed with the words, "Tiburon, S.C."
When Rosaleen goes into town to register to vote, she feels empowered by the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and has a run-in with the town's three biggest racists, resulting in Rosaleen being taken into custody. Lily arranges for her to break free. Together, they seek sanctuary in Tiburon, South Carolina, where Lily discovers the mystery of the Black Madonna.
Taken in by a trio of middle-aged black women who are sisters, as well as beekeepers, Lily is introduced to the secret life of bees and begins to learn some important life lessons. She also learns something about her mother and finds love where she least expected.
A few quotes: "Oh, Lily," she said, and there was a gentleness in her words, like they'd been rocked in a little hmmock of tenderness down in her throat. "Why would I go and hurt you with something like that?"
"Knowing can be a curse on a person's life. I'd traded in a pack of lies for a pack of truth and I didn't know which one was heavier. Which one took the most strength to carry around? It was a ridiculous question, though, because once you know the truth, you can't ever go back and pick up your suitcase of lies, heavier or not, the truth is yours now."
"And when you get down to it, Lily, that's the only purpose grand enough for a human life. Not just to love but to persist in love."