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The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd With her father’s maid, motherless fourteen year old Lily Owens sets out on a quest in 1964 South Carolina to learn more about her mother and the mysterious circumstances of her death.   The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd is a story about motherhood, sisterhood, prejudices, love, and coming of age.

From the Publisher

Sue Monk Kidd’s ravishing debut novel has stolen the hearts of reviewers and readers alike with its strong, assured voice. Set in South Carolina in 1964, The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. When Lily’s fierce-hearted “stand-in mother,” Rosaleen, insults three of the town’s fiercest racists, Lily decides they should both escape to Tiburon, South Carolina—a town that holds the secret to her mother’s past. There they are taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters who introduce Lily to a mesmerizing world of bees, honey, and the Black Madonna who presides over their household. This is a remarkable story about divine female power and the transforming power of love—a story that women will share and pass on to their daughters for years to come. Penguin Group USA

Book Club Party Ideas for The Secret Life of Bees

Time to plan my book club party … My favorite scene in The Secret Life of Bees occurs during the Feast of Mary celebration.  I loved Lily and the ladies, the honey and the statue of the Black Madonna. I wanted to recreate my favorite scene, so I decorated with lots of blue and white crepe paper, flowers, colored Christmas lights and Lily’s big blue hat.

Be sure to tell your guests a big Southern hat is must-wear attire to this party.

Gathering my inspiration from June Boatwright, I wanted to find some Gospel selections for the cello.  I luckily found the beautiful and haunting Sacred Music for Cello by Anne Martindale Williams.

[mp3 album=”sacred music for cello”]

Book Club Menu for The Secret Life of Bees

Ahhhh, SOUL FOOD, cooked with love the way Rosaleen and the Boatwright sisters prepared their meals.

lace tablecloth, flowers, collard greens, slushy bourbon

Southern Smothered Chicken over steamed rice,


with Collard Greens and

Collard beans recipe, bacon

Rosaleen’s Corn Fritters

Corn Fritters

and for the sweet tooth … dessert

The Boatwright Sisters’ Mary Honey Cakes … ooey and gooey.

Red flowers, honey cake recipe


In the hot South, nothin’ refreshes better than iced tea.   And, being a Southern tea drinking lady myself with a penchant for spirits, I knew exactly what I’d be serving at this soiree:  Slushy Bourbon Tea.

 frozen drink recipe, lime wedge, bourbon drinks

Book Club Resources


  • “To reach the book’s conclusion, you’ll want to tear through the pages. Restrain yourself. The beautiful language and seamless unfolding of this well-written story deserve more. (It) merits sweet time and savoring.”– Southern Living
  • “In this gem of a first novel, Sue Monk Kidd creates a charmed Southern place… Kidd uses the bee metaphor to craft a captivating story of self-discovery, shared pains and joys. Acclaimed for such insightful nonfiction as When the Heart Waits, Kidd the novelist promises to be equally noteworthy.” — Virginia Quarterly Review
  • “The core of this story is Lily’s search for a mother, and she finds one in a place she never expected. August and her sisters, June and May, are no mere vehicles for Lily’s salvation; they are individuals as fully imagined as the sweltering, kudzu-carpeted landscape that surrounds them.” — Adam Mazmanian, New York Times Book Reviews

Discussion Questions for The Secret Life of Bees

  1. Which of the three sisters, May, June or August, is your favorite?  Discuss each sister’s relationship with Lily.
  2. The bee metaphor is beautifully integrated throughout the novel.  What is “the secret life of bees?”  Who is the queen bee?
  3. How did you feel about Lily’s relationship with Zach?  Were you rooting for Lily and Zach?  Were you uncomfortable?  What realizations did Lily come to as a result of this relationship?
  4. Did your feelings toward T-Ray change as more was revealed about his character?
  5. Discuss The Daughters of Mary.  What was the draw of the Black Madonna?  What did she represent to the group?  Did you find the religious symbolism offensive?  Did you understand their need for the Black Madonna?

The Author

Visit the website of Sue Monk Kidd

Some of my favorite quotes from The Secret Life of Bees:

“Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.” ~ August Boatwright

“She liked to tell everybody that women made the best beekeepers, ’cause they have a special ability built into them to love creatures that sting. It comes from years of loving children and husbands.” ~ August speaking about Big Mama

“Lily, I like you better than any girl I’ve ever known, but you have to understand, there are people who would kill boys like me for even looking at girls like you.” ~ Zach Taylor 

I admire my mother more than anyone I’ve ever known and while reading this book I reflected a great deal on the mother/daughter bond.

My sisters and I had a great time celebrating our sisterhood!  We are truly blessed!

This is a picture of my Lily in her blue hat.

southern hat, secret life of bees

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  1. You can also find a complete list of the foods mentioned in Secret Life of Bees at What beautiful photos of the Feast! I’m hungry!

    Comment by Nathalie

  2. Great info! Thank you for commenting!

    Comment by Annie