A Book That’s Sure to Get You Buzzing

by Hannah Gray


Although school books don’t often entice me (and I’m sure this is the same for many), Secret Life of Bees had me enthralled for a reason I can’t quite figure out. Published in 2001, Secret Life of Bees, is a heartwarming coming-of-age novel set in 1964, based in the state of South Carolina. Although it starts off fairly uneventfully (and slowly, quite frankly), it starts to pick up rapidly and we’re off with Lilly on a long, valuable journey of self-discovery. Lily’s a smart, fresh 14-year-old who has unfortunately had to live with knowing she accidentally killed her mother at the ripe age of 4. She is now left to live with her abusive, tough father “who [she] called T. Ray because ‘Daddy’ never fit him” (2).  Lilly and her nanny/housekeeper Rosaleen find themselves in a difficult situation after being heckled by 3 of the town’s most racist men, and as a result, Rosaleen and Lily are taken to jail. Lilly makes the bold, spur-of-the-moment decision to break Rosaleen out of the hospital she’s staying in; afraid the men will go back and kill her. Knowing they can’t go back to Sylvan, they set off on their journey to find the truth about Lily’s mother, and that black Mary picture from Tiburon, South Carolina. 

As for writing, Sue Monk Kidd is an impeccable author. The pacing, character development, narration, motifs, and bee quotes at the beginning of the chapters, everything was extremely well done. It encapsulates the story in such a way that the reader really feels as if they are going on this journey right along with Lilly, and in a way they are. The bee quotes especially enhanced the novel because they gave an insight to what the chapter could potentially be about, and left me as a reader pondering how they would play out. 

As for age appropriation, Secret Life of Bees is certainly not for the light-hearted. It touches on many heavy topics such as trauma, racism, prejudice, abuse, and mental health. For this reason, it should not be read by people under the age of 14, and should be in the high school curriculum. Students under the age of 14 may struggle to comprehend the main theme of the novel, and the topics may be too heavy for them to process and fully grasp. 

Overall, Secret Life of Bees is an outstanding piece of literature which shows a young girl’s journey of self discovery, and the hardships along the way.