The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd is a heartwarming novel about the redemptive power of a chosen family.
The novel centers around 14-year old Lily Owens, who is raised by her abusive father, and Black housekeeper, Rosaleen. Lily’s mother left her when she was very young and died not long after, but in her mind, her mother still exists as a perfect parent- she blames her father for driving her mother away.
One day, Rosaleen goes to the city to register to vote, but is badly beaten by racists at the poll booth. Lily is present for the encounter, and her life is forever changed. In her mother’s old possessions, she finds the label for a honey jar and an address, and convinces Rosaleen to run away with her. The pair end up at a small honey farm run by three Black sisters- August, June, and May. The sisters graciously take them in, and it is here that Lily finds her true family, and the true meaning of love. However, as she grapples with growing up, fear of her father, and the truth about her mother, she also discovers herself- just herself, undefined by her cruel father or her desire for a motherly figure.
I really, really enjoyed this book. The exposition and imagery that Kidd uses is lush and beautifully contributes to the overall theme. The sisters’ home, the color of Pepto-Bismol, seems like a dream- a magical, otherworldly place where nothing could go wrong, and anything seldom does. However, what I loved most about this book is the fact that Lily’s story did not end simply when she found the mother figure she had been searching for her whole life. Instead, Kidd truly gave Lily development- she had to go beyond this desire and truly find herself for who she was.