The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd is the story of a girl who lost her mother at a very young age and later, in her teen years, sets out on a quest to find out more about her. Set in the 1960s in South Carolina, a time when the Civil Rights Act had been passed but not yet actually enforced, it speaks of a time dotted with incidents of black-white discrimination. The protagonist, Lily, has a governess, Rosaleen, who is black, and a father who is often mean and even cruel to her. Lily and Rosaleen, through a series of events, end up in the house of three black sisters, the eldest of whom knew Lily's mother quite well. The sisters agree to house, feed and clothe Lily and Rosaleen and teach Lily about beekeeping, which is their own little business.
A beautifully written, powerful, compelling story about mothers and daughters, about the idea of family, about breaking through the barriers of race and colour. Although ridden with grammatical errors here and there, (It's hard to break that habit. I do notice them and they do bother me sometimes.) it's a story that will appeal to women of all ages and ethnic groups, to mothers and daughters everywhere. The writer takes us on a journey through her protagonist's mind and her thoughts, showing us how messed up her life is, how flawed and human she is, just like the rest of us, and also, how much she needs to be loved and to live a life of dignity. The narrative has the mark of a good book, which is to make the readers feel the characters' pain and joy as they go along, and this is a quality that makes the book hard to put down.