Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

“You gotta imagine what’s never been.”

TitleSecret Life of Bees
Author: Sue Monk Kidd
Narrator: Jenna Lamia
Genre: fiction
ISBN: 9781565115392
Length: 10 hours
Source: public library
Rating: 4/5
Resolutions/Challenges: none

Reason for Reading: I wanted an audiobook to listen to on a 4.5 hour drive to and from my family’s cottage where I went to spend a few days for vacation. But I wanted a story that I sort of already knew, because some of the driving took concentration (I don’t like busy 6-lane highways). So I’d seen this movie and figured that, since I knew the basic premise at least, it’d be a good one to listen to. And I really enjoyed Jenna Lamia’s narration in Edenborn by Nick Sagan, so I thought I’d try another of hers.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees, 14-year-old Lily Owen, neglected by her father and isolated on their Georgia peach farm, spends hours imagining a blissful infancy when she was loved and nurtured by her mother, Deborah, whom she barely remembers. These consoling fantasies are her heart’s answer to the family story that as a child, in unclear circumstances, Lily accidentally shot and killed her mother. All Lily has left of Deborah is a strange image of a Black Madonna, with the words “Tiburon, South Carolina” scrawled on the back. The search for a mother, and the need to mother oneself, are crucial elements in this well-written coming-of-age story set in the early 1960s against a background of racial violence and unrest. When Lily’s beloved nanny, Rosaleen, manages to insult a group of angry white men on her way to register to vote and has to skip town, Lily takes the opportunity to go with her, fleeing to the only place she can think of–Tiburon, South Carolina–determined to find out more about her dead mother. Although the plot threads are too neatly trimmed, The Secret Life of Bees is a carefully crafted novel with an inspired depiction of character. The legend of the Black Madonna and the brave, kind, peculiar women who perpetuate Lily’s story dominate the second half of the book, placing Kidd’s debut novel squarely in the honored tradition of the Southern Gothic. –Regina Marler

My Thoughts: This story reminded me a lot of The Rain Catchers by Jean Thesman, in feeling and mood. A teenage girl being raised by a collective of women, related or otherwise, who are somehow very wise and all that. The girl had a parent die and the other parent unfit to raise her–in this instance, Lily Owens, 14, losing her mother and living with her father. (Gray, 14/15, lived with her grandmother because her dad died and mother was, opposite T Ray Owens, just too busy to deal with a kid.) Both stories have something magical about them. I loved the bits about beekeeping in this book, the little quotes/passages from non-fiction books about beekeeping–mostly these were about the Queen. Beekeeping is something that I’m guessing a lot of people don’t know much about, so giving it this mystical touch was a great move on Kidd’s part.

Thoughts on Audiobook Format: I was pleasantly surprised to discover upon checking this out from the library, that Jenna Lamia was the narrator. She narrated Penny’s portions of Edenborn by Nick Sagan and did such a great job as a disgruntled teenage girl who no one understands. So I was glad to see that she did a Southern teenage girl very well, too! She has a great voice.

Quotes/Passages I Liked:

“Remembering is everything.”


“Regrets don’t help anything.”


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