The Secret Life of Bees

Published by: Penguin
Pages: 336
ISBN13: 978-0142001745
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•  Published by Viking, 2002
•  New York Times Bestseller for 2 ½ Years
•  8 Million Copies Sold Worldwide
•  Book Sense Book of the Year, 2004
•  Good Morning America “Read This” Book Club Pick

Set in South Carolina during 1964, The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of a fourteen year old white girl, 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 racists in town, they escape to Tiburon, South Carolina—a town that holds the secret to her mother’s past. Taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters, Lily finds refuge in their mesmerizing world of bees, honey, and the Black Madonna.

Lily starts a journey as much about her understanding of the world, as about the mystery surrounding her mother. The Secret Life of Bees is a major literary triumph about the search for love and belonging, a novel that possesses a rare wisdom about life and the power and divinity of the female spirit.

Reading Groups

A Conversation with Sue Monk Kidd
Discussion Questions for the Reader
The 10th Anniversary Edition of The Secret Life of Bees

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Teacher's Guide

For use in classrooms

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The Movie

Meet the Cast
Watch the Trailer
Sue's Visit to the Set

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“A dazzling fictional debut….The Secret Life of Bees is storytelling at its finest and the end result is something quite extraordinary.”
—Bookpage Magazine

“Inspiring. Sue Monk Kidd is a direct literary descendent of Carson McCullers.”
—The Baltimore Sun

“The stunning metaphors and realistic characters... (of) this sweeping debut novel are so poignant that they will bring tears to your eyes.”
—Library Journal

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The queen, for her part, is the unifying force of the community; if she is removed from the hive, the workers very quickly sense her absence. After a few hours, or even less, they show unmistakable signs of queenlessness
—Man and Insects

Chapter One

At night I would lie in bed and watch the show, how bees squeezed through the cracks of my bedroom wall and flew circles around the room, making that propeller sound, a high-pitched zzzzzz that hummed along my skin. I watched their wings shining like bits of chrome in the dark and felt the longing build in my chest. The way those bees flew, not even looking for a flower, just flying for the feel of the wind, split my heart down its seam.

During the day I heard them tunneling through the walls of my bedroom, sounding like a radio tuned to static in the next room, and I imagined them in there turning the walls into honeycombs, with honey seeping out for me to taste.

The bees came the summer of 1964, the summer I turned fourteen and my life went spinning off into a whole new orbit, and I mean whole new orbit. Looking back on it now, I want to say the bees were sent to me. I want to say they showed up like the angle Gabriel appearing to the Virgin Mary, setting events in motion I could never have guessed. I know it is presumptuous to compare my small life to hers, but I have reason to believe she wouldn't mind; I will get to that. Right now it's enough to say that despite everything that happened that summer, I remain tender toward the bees.

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