Set in the American South in 1964, the year of the Civil Rights Act and intensifying racial unrest, Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees is a powerful story not simply about bees, but of coming-of-age, of the ability of love to transform our lives, and of the often unacknowledged longing for equal women and human rights. Although this novel is not one of a higher reading level, Kidd displays many hidden meanings, ones that require the reader to dig beneath the surface. Addressing the wounds of casualties, betrayal, and the lack of love, Kidd shows the power of women uniting together to treat those wounds, to care about each other and themselves, and to create a community of true family and home.
The Secret Life of Bees is a fictional story but it captured my mind as if it were reality. Everything from the story line to the references of the Civil Rights Movement occurring in 1960's makes the story more realistic. Although Kidd doesn't believe that any of the characters are drawn specifically from her own life, she did draw from details and recollections of her adolescence for the actions and mannerisms of many of the characters. Also, at the beginning of every chapter and from one of the characters in the novel itself, we are shown the scientific facts about bees and a life in a bee hive. This makes the novel itself is not only more interesting, but it gives it a uniqueness unlike any other. Kidd has stated that she drew inspiration from the honeybees that lived in a wall of her house in Georgia while she was growing up, providing a frame for her novel. She remembers the humming sound of the bees and the honey that seeped out of the wall. She said that she imagined a young girl lying in bed with bees sifting through the cracks in the wall and the thoughts that may have surrounded her life.
Throughout the novel there is an important theme of death giving way to life. In the very beginning of the novel, Lily says "People who think dying is the...
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