Secret life of bees
Title: The Secret Life of Bees
Author: Sue Monk Kidd
Reviewer: Amanda Prouten
It’s the early 60s in South Carolina and 14-year old white girl Lily lives with her bastard of a father on his peach farm, believing that she accidentally killed her mother when she was only 4 years old.
Lily’s only friend is Rosaleen, their black maid, and when racial tension erupts, Rosaleen is unfairly arrested and beaten by a bunch of southern rednecks. Lily helps Rosaleen escape from jail and they both set off as fugitives across the country following the trail of a picture of a black madonna with a place name on the back.
When they find refuge in the sanctuary of three bee-keeping sisters, Lily’s journey really begins – both in understanding the time she lives in and the mystery of her mother’s life and death.
The Secret Life of Bees is a remarkably moving novel. The female characters are strong, adventurous, witty and wise, which gives the book its unmistakable flavour and magic. It’s an adventure with a steady pace but also rich in warmth and depth and political poignancy.
With racial segregation still very prevalent in 60s America, the harsh struggle of black Americans around the time of the Civil Rights Act being passed by President Johnson was still at the forefront. Reverend Martin Luther King, campaigning for black equality, had still been arrested for attempting to eat in a restaurant after the law had been passed.
The story’s political backdrop really hits home the fact that the Civil Rights bill only came into existence 40 years ago and it was just the beginning of the struggle for racial equality.
Sample extract: I reached out and traced black Mary’s heart with my finger. I stood with the petals on my toes and pressed my hands hard against her heart. “I live a life of darkness, and you are my mother, I told her. You are the mother of thousands”.