The Secret Life of Bees Study Guide

The Secret Life of Bees By Sue Monk Kidd

Lily Owens, a white girl growing up on a South Carolina peach farm in 1964, has it rough. Her life is shaped primarily by her memories, blurred though they may be, of the afternoon in which her mother died a horrible but accidental death by a gunshot that Lily believes she fired herself.

At home, Lily is lonely and suffers constant abuse by her rage-a-holic father, T. Ray. At school, Lily is lonely and not well cared for. The whole time Lily has been growing up, she is disallowed from asking about her past or learning about the childhood she barely remembers.

Lily, looking ahead at the grim prospect of ongoing abuse by her father T. Ray, chooses to run away from home. Before she leaves, she comes across a picture of her mother - Deborah Fontanel Owens - and tries to learn more about her. She comes across a small wooden plaque with an image of a black-skinned Virgin Mary pasted to it, and the words "Tiburon, SC" carved on it. Lily learns that Rosaleen has insulted three white men in town and is in jail, and breaks her free so she can take her to Tiburon, South Carolina.

The two make the move to Tiburon, where she meets the Boatwright 'calendar girls': May, June and August, who are beekeepers. The three strong black women take Lily in and show her love, and nurture her sense of self. Faced with the task of figuring herself out, Lily begins to keep a notebook of her thoughts. She also finds love in the form of one Zachary Taylor. She finally learns who she really is when she learns about her mother's past, as the memory of her mother had been a huge mystery in her life.

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