The Secret Life of Bees is written by Sue Monk Kidd. This first novel of hers was published in 2002 and became a bestseller.
The book is written in a way you actually participate in the story. In the book you see different themes like child-abuse, the presence and absence of motherhood and the relationship between different races.
The story is about a fourteen year old white girl named Lily, who accidently killed her mother when she was four years old. Her father abuses her and her only friend is her black housekeeper Rosaleen.
One day Rosaleen is being harassed by three white men, when she wants to register to vote. Rosaleen ends up in the hospital and Lily, who is accompanying her, is picked up by her father T. Ray at the police station. She gets into a fight with him and decides to run away. She goes to the hospital to pick up Rosaleen and together they hitchhike to Tiburon. She chooses this destination, because she has a picture that belonged to her mother with a black Mary on it and the name Tiburon written on the back.
Upon arrival in Tiborun, Lily discovers the black Mary on a pot of honey. She asks the owner were the honey is being made and he sends her to the Boatwrights’ pink house. August Boatwright, the eldest of the three sisters living there, invites them to stay and Lily is going to help her with the beekeeping. August and her sisters June and May, have a group of friends called the Daughters of Mary, and all of them worship the statue of a black Mary. Lily starts to love her stay at the Boatwrights’ house. She also meets a boy named Zach there, who works in the bee yard; they soon start to fall in love. After one of the sisters has committed suicide, Lily finally finds the courage to talk to August about her own mother, Deborah. She discovers that her mother has left the family, because she could not stay with T. Ray, her father. She feels both abandoned and angry. Shortly after, her father shows up in Tiborun and wants to take her home. She resists and August convinces him to let her stay with the three sisters.
Before he leaves, Lily asks him if she really killed her mother. The father confirms she did, but the writer leaves you behind with the impression that it might not be true.
The symbol of bees is important throughout the book. Bees are present when Lily is living at her father’s house, but they also lead her to the Boatwright sisters; and bees are also living in a female community, just like Lily does at the Boatwrights’s house.Lily returns to school, together with Zach. She realizes that she has found a new family and that she is now living with three strong women, replacing her mother.