secretbees“The world will give you that once in a while, a brief time-out; the boxing bell rings and you go to your corner, where somebody dabs mercy on your beat-up life.” – p 82

Lily Owens has not had an easy time of it.  Left motherless with an unloving father at a young age, Lily is haunted by the memories of the day her mother died – shadowed recollections of arguing, closets, suitcases, and a sinister shotgun she thinks was in her own hands.  Now, her mother figure is the black woman who takes care of her, Rosaleen.  Her father demands her utmost attention, and practical servitude, leaving Lily searching for answers about her history and her future.

When Rosaleen intentionally insults one of the most racist men in town and is arrested, her very life threatened, Lily decides enough is enough.  She has a card with a black Madonna on the front and two words, “Tiburon, SC” on the back, that was included with a picture of her mother in a hidden box.  Using that as a guide, she and Rosaleen head to Tiburon and meet up with the three sisters who run the Black Madonna Honey company – May, June, and August Boatwright.  The sisters take her and Rosaleen in, allowing Lily to learn the ways of beekeeping as she heals her spirit and comes to terms with what really happened to her mother.

“Every human being on the face of the earth has a steel plate in his head, but if you lie down now and then and get still as you can, it will slide open like elevator doors, letting in all the secret thoughts that have been standing around so patiently, pushing the button for a ride to the top.  The real troubles in life happen when those hidden doors stay closed for too long.” -p 170

This is the sort of story I was expecting from “Drowning Ruth.” A painful story which requires time for healing strong wounds from the main character’s past.  Ironically, I enjoyed “Ruth” more than this novel.  Something about Lily put me off of her, not so much annoyed as disinterested because of her attitude.  August, however, was a vastly intriguing character, I almost wish there were a separate book simply about her.

“The Secret Life of Bees” was written by Sue Monk Kidd and published in 2002.