Lily Owens lives with a mean harsh father who owns a peach farm in South Carolina. Her first memory is of killing her mother accidentally by shooting her with a gun that she was trying to get to her while her parents are arguing as her mother, Deborah is packing up a suitcase. When Lily does something that her father, T. Ray doesn't like he makes her kneel in a pile of uncooked grits that leave cuts and bruises on her legs. After her mother died T. Ray brought in a black worker from the fields named Rosaleen to take care of the house and Lily. Rosaleen is aggressive and not prone to keeping her mouth shut when she should, but she acts as a surrogate mother to Lily.
Right after the Civil Rights Act is signed into law Rosaleen decides to go and register to vote. Lily asks to go with her as it's her birthday and nothing else is going on. T. Ray never gets her anything for her birthday or celebrates it. It's on July 4 so in a way, everyone else is celebrating it. When they go into town three of the racist men in town start in on Rosaleen and piss her off, so she takes her tobacco spit cup and pours it over their shoes. This incites them to demand an apology which she refuses to give them and they attack her until the sheriff sees it and puts a stop to it and arrests her and Lily. Lily can't understand why Rosaleen can't just act right. Or apologize to get out of jail. T. Ray arrives to get Lily out of jail, but not Rosaleen who is in a real pickle. The next day when Lily goes to visit her she isn't in jail anymore but the hospital because the sheriff allowed the racist men in to beat her up trying to get her to apologize. T. Ray had said that there would be no way out for Rosaleen except in a pine box so Lily sets about with an idea of how to break her out.
After convincing the store owner where the incident took place in front of not to press charges after using some creative storytelling, she goes to the hospital and makes a call to the nurse to tell the cop guarding the door that the charges have been dropped and for him to come back to the station. When the cop leaves she goes into Rosaleen's room and gets her dressed and they slip out of the hospital. They begin their trek toward Tiburon, South Carolina because Lily had seen it written on the back of a picture of a black Madonna among her mother's few possessions and she figures to go there and find someone who knows her mother and learn what she can about her. Rosaleen isn't too happy about this once she finds out, but she doesn't have much choice about it now.
When they reach Tiburon Lily goes into the general store to buy some food and sees a bottle of honey with the exact picture of the black Madonna she has on it and asks about it. It turns out a group of local black women make the honey and they live in a crazy pink house. So Lily and Rosaleen go there to meet up with the Calander sisters: May, June, and August. There was a July, May's twin sister, but she died years ago quite tragically leaving May devastated and carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders and unable to cope. The sisters convinced her to build a wailing wall in which to place the things that bother her on a piece of paper into the crevices. June is a talented cello player and a school teacher who keeps turning down the principal's offer of marriage due to the fact that she was left at the altar years ago. June doesn't like or trust Lily. August is full of warmth and kindness and takes them in with open arms and teaches Lily the beekeeping business. Zach, a handsome black high school boy helps her with the business and he and Lily hit it off right from the start.
The sisters have their own religion that involves a version of Catholicism and a mix of otherness that comes with the wooden boat mast of the black Madonna that hangs out in their living room and that they pray to saying the Hail Mary's to. Once a week they hold services there were other people in the town come to hear the message and pray and dance and touch the heart at the base of the statue. This seems odd at first, but Lily and Rosaleen quickly get swept up in it. And no one treats Lily different for being the only white person there. For a girl who has grown up without a mother, she seems to be gaining too many to count. But the happiness cannot last and T. Ray hasn't given up on finding them and August may have to send them back once Lily tells them the real reason they are there and finds out what she needs to know about her mother, which she dreads to learn at first. This book is quite wonderful and heartwarming and sometimes a bit heartbreaking. It does touch on what things were like in the South in 1964 in an honest way while at times being a bit naive when it came to Lily. I cannot recommend this book enough.
People who think dying is the worst thing don’t know a thing about life.
-Sue Monk Kidd (The Secret Life Of Bees p 2)
“You know some things don’t matter that much, Lily. Like the color of a house. How big is that in the overall scheme of life? But lifting a person’s heart—now, that matters. The whole problem with people is—“ “They don’t know what matters and what doesn’t” “I was gonna say, The problem is they know what matters, but they don’t choose it. You know how hard that it is, Lily? I love May, but it was still hard to choose Caribbean Pink. The hardest thing on earth is choosing what matters.”
-Sue Monk Kidd (The Secret Life Of Bees p 147)
It is always a relief to empty your bladder. Better than sex, Rosaleen said. As good as it felt, though, I sincerely hoped she was wrong.
-Sue Monk Kidd (The Secret Life Of Bees p 163)
You think you want to know something, and then once you do, all you can think about is erasing it from your mind. From now on when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I planned to say, Amnesiac.
-Sue Monk Kidd (The Secret Life Of Bees p 249)
Knowing can put a curse on a person’s life. I’d traded in a pack of lies for a pack of truth, and I didn’t know which one was heavier. Which one took the most strength to carry around? It was a ridiculous question, though, because once you know the truth, you can’t ever go back and pick up your suitcase of lies. Heavier or not, the truth is yours now.
-Sue Monk Kidd (The Secret Life Of Bees p 155-6)
Have you ever noticed that the more you try not to think, the more elaborate your thinking episodes get?
-Sue Monk Kidd (The Secret Life Of Bees p 271)
People, in general, would rather die than forgive. It’s that hard. If God said in plain language, “I’m giving you a choice; forgive or die,” a lot of people would go ahead and order their coffin.
-Sue Monk Kidd (The Secret Life Of Bees p 277)Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Secret-Life-Bees-Monk-Kidd-ebook/dp/B000W4RFBQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1494422025&sr=8-1&keywords=secret+life+of+bees+book