The Secret Life of Bees

Bookmark last night and we all agreed that we LOVED this book by Sue Monk Kidd. (Even our token man loved it.) The author, born in a small town in Georgia, started off life as a nurse but went on to study spirituality, philosophy, mythology and woman stuff. She is a big fan of Thomas Merton and C G Jung, and I think you could find glimpses of all within this book.

Set in the American South in 1964, the year of the Civil Rights Act and intensifying racial unrest, the book is a powerful story of coming-of-age, of the ability of love to transform our lives, and the often unacknowledged longing for the universal faminine divine. Addressing the wounds of loss, betrayal, and the scarcity of love, the author demonstrates the power of women coming together to heal those wounds, to mother each other and themselves, and to create a sanctuary of true family and home.

The book revolves around Lily, a 14 year old, who lives with her harsh father, both mourning the death of her mother when Lily was 4. Lily is led to believe that she was responsible for her death. Lily is raised by Rosaleen, her proud, outspoken African-American nanny and when Rosaleen tries to vote she is attacked and thrown into jail. Lily springs her from jail and they run away together to a small town, the name of which Lily has found in her mother’s possessions. There they are taken in by three black beekeeping sisters who worship the Black Madonna. There Lily makes her passage to wholeness and new life.

The book is funny and sad and empowering and the ending is not what you might expect. We’d love to see the film when it’s made, but weren’t sure if we wanted to read a sequel if the author ever does one.

8 thoughts on “The Secret Life of Bees

  1. How about THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US by Maggie O’Farrell for your next book? It’s set in Hong Kong, London, North Scotland, and . . . Musselburgh and Portobello! It’s a love story. The main characters are Stella and Jake. I saw Richard Holloway interviewing the author for BBC Radio one day in Luca’s. I couldn’t put the book down.

  2. Thanks Abigail. We went with God’s Spy by Jaun Gomez-Jurado – an international bestseller, allegedly! Our poor man puts up with lots of ‘girly books’ and we needed something more ‘manly’! Happy to go with yours next time.

    Thanks for the suggestions – we loved your last one too. Why don’t you come along?!

  3. I would love to. I have a ‘never had, wish I could . . . perhaps, maybe’ list and being in a book group is one of them. I have friends who are on them but they were invited by someone else and there seems to be some sort of weird protocol with these things, so when I saw St M’s had one I though ‘ oh good!’. However, each one has clashed with a prior commitment. Tell me the next three dates and I will put them in the diary. By the way a few of the other things on the ‘never had, wish I could’ list are – been a bridesmaid (too late now), been an angel (far too late now, but now you know the real reason I like serving – it’s the closest I’ll get to wearing a white outfit in church) and another one was being a God mother – which I got asked to be three years ago.

  4. Hi Ruth,

    You don’t know me and I only know you as a friend of Father Gareth, my son-in-law.

    I finished reading this lovely book just this afternoon – so I couldn’t resist a comment. I just loved it. I cried at times – not like me really – and felt that solid, grace-filled breathless moment when she was touching the heart of the black MARY. And all that stuff about Mary speaking in her heart.

    However you interpret it, whoever’s voice you think you hear, it is just such an affirming and beautiful book.

    I also liked the ‘Alchemist’ for similar reasons.

  5. Abigail, we decide the next date at each meeting to suit the members so you need to come along with your diary. Consider yourself well and truly invited!

    I always wanted to be an actress. Oh well, some would say my dream has come true…

  6. Dorothy, thank you for commenting. It is glorious, isn’t it?

    Haven’t read the Alchemist for years… that’s an idea for another time. We haven’t done it yet…

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