The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Literary Fiction ; (302 pgs)
BOOK SENSE BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARD (2004)
Sue Monk Kidd's ravishing debut novel has stolen the hearts of reviewers and readers alike with its strong, assured voice. Set in South Carolina in 1964, The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of 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 of the town's fiercest racists, Lily decides they should both escape to Tiburon, South Carolina—a town that holds the secret to her mother's past. There they are taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters who introduce Lily to a mesmerizing world of bees, honey, and the Black Madonna who presides over their household. This is a remarkable story about divine female power and the transforming power of love—a story that women will share and pass on to their daughters for years to come. (GoodReads)
First of all, this was a random read this week. Here is how the story goes. I had just finished a very stressful conversation with my dear mother about my resolution to finally leave the nest and make my next move in life. My sister (along with her family - her husband and my two nieces) will be immigrating to the United States very soon, and my job here is very much done. I can leave knowing I have fulfilled my responsibilities to my blood ties. I can now continue the path I have been longing for long time to start. The story continues further....
The conversation was far from easy. So after a persistent back-and-forth questioning and explaining that this is the next best thing for me, I entered the world of my books with a craving to ground myself with a book full of empowerment and wisdom. There it was The Secret Life of Bees. It just spoke to me, sort of like a universal sixth sense.... I don't quite understand how that works, yet, it's truly a mystery. Certain books just call out to me, and without hesitation, I begin reading them randomly (or maybe not so random). I took one look it at, I felt a pull towards it, instantly grabbed it and began reading it.
I have had this book on my shelf for too long. It's great to have finally completed it. An award-winning book, New York Times Bestseller, and selected by Good Morning America's "Read This" Book Club. The writing is absolutely high caliber. The words enter through you, and hit you with the deepest types of wisdom about the place of a female in the world. The story is based on the history and knowledge of the bees. The social understanding of the bees is evidently translated throughout the story. In fact, it's worth mentioning what is said of the Queen Bee. As a lover of nature, I was fascinated how Sue Monk Kidd took something in nature and related to human behavior in such a realistic sense. Read the following excerpts, think about the power and place of the woman in society, and if your attention has been grabbed, then you must read this book.
"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 know unmistakable signs of queenlessness." - Man and Insects
"On leaving the old nest, the swarm normally flies only a few meters and settles. Scout bees look for a suitable place to start the new colony. Eventually, one location wins favor and the whole swarm takes to the air." - Bees of the World
"New beekeepers are told that the way to find the elusive queen is by first locating her circle of attendants." - The Queen Must Die: And Other Affairs of Bees and Men
"Honeybees are social insects and live in colonies. Each colony is a family unit, comprising a single, egg-laying female or queen and her many sterile daughters called workers. The workers cooperate in the food-gathering, nest-building and rearing the offspring. Males are reared only at the times of year when their presence is required." - Bees of the World
"Let's imagine for a moment that we are tiny enough to follow a bee into a hive. Usually the first thing we would have to get used to is the darkness..." - Exploring the World of Social Insects
"The Queen must produce some substance that attracts the workers and that can be obtained from her only by direct contact. This substance evidently stimulates the normal working behavior in the hive. This chemical messenger has been called "queen substance." Experiments have shown that the bees obtain it directly from the body of the queen." - Man and Insects
"How did bees ever become equated with sex? They do not live a riotous sex life themselves. A hive suggests cloister more than bordello." - The Queen Must Die: And Other Affairs of Bees and Men
"Honeybees depend not only on physical contact with the colony, but also require its social companionship and support. Isolate a honeybee from her sisters and she will soon die." - The Queen Must Die: And Other Affairs of Bees and Men
"The whole fabric of honey bee society depends on communication - on an innate ability to send and receive messages, to encode and decode information." - The Honey Bee
"A bee's life is but short. During the spring and summer - the most strenuous period of foraging - a worker bee, as a rule, does not live more than four or five weeks... Threatened by all kinds of dangers during their flights, many workers die before they have reached even that age." - The Dancing Bees
"It takes honeybee workers ten million foraging trips to gather enough nectar to make one pound of honey." - Bees of the World
"If the Queen were smarter, she would probably be hopelessly neurotic. As is, she is shy and skittish, possibly because she never leaves the hive, but spends her days confined in darkness, a kind of eternal night, perpetually in labor.... Her true role is less that of a queen than mother of the hive, a title often accorded to her. And yet, this is something of a mockery because of her lack of maternal instincts or the ability to care for her young." - The Queen Must Die: And Other Affairs of Bees and Men
"A worker [bee] is just over a centimeter long and weights only about sixty milligrams; nevertheless, she can fly with a load heavier than herself." - The Honey Bee
"A queenless colony is a pitiful and melancholy community; there may be a mournful wail or lament from within ... Without intervention, the colony will die. But introduce a new queen and the most extravagant change takes place." - The Queen Must Die: And Other Affairs of Bees and Men
So maybe this wasn't such a 'random' book after all. There are no coincidences in my life. I usually tend to gravitate to the experiences that bring me closer to what is happening in my life or towards my calling. This book definitely contains lots of wisdom and sentiments regarding the mother-daughter bond. It's probably one of the subconscious inclinations to pick it up considering I had just been having rift in conversation (and maybe in bond) with my own mother. Then there is the empowerment of the Queen Bee to be all that she is, and to fulfill her place in life. The above say it all. I can relate to most of those things. I strive for most of those things.
This is just an amazing book, one to definitely learn an immense deal, especially on the power of a woman in our society and the bonds mothers and daughters share. Neither of which can be taken for granted, and should only be nurtured to be allowed to flourish into their full potential. Great read that you must experience.