THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES
Sue Monk Kidd’s ravishing debut novel has stolen the hearts of reviewers and readers alike with its strong, assured voice. 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 “stand-in mother,” Rosaleen, insults three of the town’s fiercest racists, Lily decides they should both escape to Tiburon, South Carolina—a town that holds the secret to her mother’s past.
Sue Monk Kidd’s ravishing debut novel has stolen the hearts of reviewers and readers alike with its strong, assured voice. 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 “stand-in mother,” Rosaleen, insults three of the town’s fiercest 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 share and pass on to their daughters for years to come.
The Secret Life of Bees Movie
Reading Group Choices and Fox Searchlight Pictures offer your group a chance to see The Secret Life of Bees before the movie is released. Then, perhaps, your book club will want to compare the movie to the book. Click here to see the trailer, click here for a pre-release screening offer in your area, and click here for a chance to win a Secret Life of Bees Prize Pack!
The Secret Life of Bees Book
“Fully imagined…the core of this story is Lily’s search for a mother, and she finds one in a place she never expected.” —The New York Times Book Review
“The stunning metaphors and realistic characters are so poignant they will bring tears to your eyes.” —Library Journal
“A moving first novel…Lily is an authentic and winning character and her story is compellingly told. The bees presage her journey toward self-acceptance, faith and freedom that is at the heart of this novel.” —USA Today
“Inspiring. Sue Monk Kidd is a direct literary descendant of Carson McCullers.”
—The Baltimore Sun
Were you surprised to learn that T. Ray used to be different, that once he truly loved Deborah? How do you think Deborah’s leaving affected him? Did it shed any light on why T. Ray was so cruel and abusive to Lily?
Had you ever heard of “kneeling on grits”? What qualities did Lily have that allowed her to survive, endure, and eventually thrive, despite T. Ray?
Who is the queen bee in this story?
Lily’s relationship to her dead mother was complex, ranging from guilt to idealization, to hatred, to acceptance. What happens to a daughter when she discovers her mother once abandoned her? Is Lily right—would people generally rather die than forgive? Was it harder for Lily to forgive her mother or herself?
Lily grew up without her mother, but in the end she finds a house full of them. Have you ever had a mother figure in your life who wasn’t your true mother? Have you ever had to leave home to find home?
What compelled Rosaleen to spit on the three men’s shoes? What does it take for a person to stand up with conviction against brutalizing injustice? What did you like best about Rosaleen?
Had you ever heard of the Black Madonna? What do you think of the story surrounding the Black Madonna in the novel? How would the story be different if it had been a picture of a white Virgin Mary? Do you know women whose lives have been deepened or enriched by a connection to an empowering Divine Mother?
Why is it important that women come together? What did you think of the “Calendar Sisters” and the Daughters of Mary? How did being in the company of this circle of females transform Lily?
May built a wailing wall to help her come to terms with the pain she felt. Even though we don’t have May’s condition, do we also need “rituals,” like wailing walls, to help us deal with our grief and suffering?
How would you describe Lily and Zach’s relationship? What drew them together? Did you root for them to be together?
Project into the future. Does Lily ever see her father again? Does she become a beekeeper? A writer? What happens to Rosaleen? What happens to Lily and Zach? Who would Zach be today?