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 black "stand-in mother," Rosaleen, insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily decides to spring them both free. They escape to Tiburon, South Carolina--a town that holds the secret to her mother's past. Taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters, Lily is introduced to their mesmerizing world of bees and honey, and the Black Madonna. This is a remarkable novel about divine female power, a story women will share and pass on to their daughters for years to come. (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)
I am pretty sure I read this one when it first came out, but if so, I certainly didn’t remember it well. (I may have also read the synopsis so many times that I never got around to it!) Lily is not an infallible main character and I really loved her for it. She has many things that she’s working on, but she’s brutally honest and I appreciated that she could see them with clarity. At times she felt too young and at others too old, but I forgave it since the book is definitely a coming of age.
The sisters on the hand know exactly who they are, exactly what they’re doing with their lives and how they’re getting there. I love the deep veins of friendship and support they lend each other. I don’t know if a “buy” some of the mysticism, but it made for a great story and definitely was enjoyable.
Warning: Contains repeated violence.
Rating: 5 stars!
Who should read it? Anyone looking for a non-typical coming of age story set in the civil rights era without completely being part of it.