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Fiction Review    

The Secret Life of Bees
by Sue Monk Kidd
Viking, 2002
$24.95 (302p)
ISBN : 0-670-89460-5

Sue Monk Kidd's debut novel, The Secret Life of Bees, is a delight. 

Lily Owens' earliest memories are a blur of the afternoon her mother was killed. Only four at the time, she remembers her parents arguing, hiding in the closet, and a gun. 

When Lily's father, T. Ray, a peach farmer, hires Rosaleen to take care of the cooking and the house, Rosaleen becomes her only source of affection. When Rosaleen tries to register to vote in their small South Carolina town, Lily tags along for the adventure. Fierce Rosaleen can't resist insulting the white men who enjoy the status quo and lands in the hospital.  Lily realizes the only way to save Rosaleen (and herself from T. Ray's wrath) is to leave town. 

The two women, guided by a photograph Lily has found amongst her mother's possessions of the Black Madonna, decide to go to Tiburon, South Carolina. Synchronicities lead them to a trio of sisters -- May (who cares for the house), June (who teaches), and August (a beekeeper and astute businesswoman). The "calendar" sisters (as Lily thinks of them) preside over a group of strong, independent, and wise women who accept Lily and Rosaleen as their own. 

The Secret Life of Bees is filled with surprises, the transforming power of love, and the importance of sisterhood. 

Sue Monk Kidd is the author of the memoirs The Dance of the Dissident Daughter and When the Heart Waits. She has won a Poets & Writers Award for the short story that began this novel, as well s a Katherine Anne Porter Award and a Bread Loaf Fellowship. She lives near Charleston, South Carolina. 


Pam Kingsbury
Southern Scribe Reviews

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