The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd is a book about hidden truths, unreasonable wants, and a longing for love by a girl who just can’t quite comprehend everything that is going on in her crazy life. The main character is Lily Melissa Owens, a 14-year old girl who is confused by just about everything in her life.
Lily is amazed by bees, treasures the few memories she has of her mother and loves her black housekeeper Rosaleen, and can’t seem to figure out why white people don’t get along with black people. She confuses herself with whether or not she personally has any femininity at all.
Throughout the story Lily goes through a lot of changes and realizes a lot of things. Lily has to deal with her abusive father, T. Ray. He is very mean and un-father like, and Lily just can’t seem to call him “Daddy”.
Lily gets this box with a few things of her mother. Its contents include a picture of her mother, a wooden picture of a black Mary with the words, “Tibourn S.C.” on the back of it, and a pair of white gloves. She buries it so T. Ray won’t take it away from her and she digs it up whenever she is feeling lonely or sad. One day, when Rosaleen and Lily are going into town so Rosaleen can vote, they run into a group of white guys who end up beating her up.
While Rosaleen is at the hospital Lily is at home. T. Ray tells Lily her mom abandoned her and it really hurts Lily. Lily decides she needs to run away. She helps Rosaleen escape from the hospital without being noticed and then they hitch hike a ride from a guy with cantaloupes and he drops them off three miles from Tibourn. Lily chose Tibourn as their destination because it was on the wooden picture of the black Mary. After being dropped off, Lily explains this reasoning to Rosaleen and they argue and split up for a while. Later they find each other again.
Once they get to Tibourn, they walk into a store where Lily notices the picture of the black Mary on a honey jar. The store clerk informs Lily about the women who make the honey and where they live. Lily and Rosaleen make this their new destination. Once there, Lily and Rosaleen meet the Boatwright sisters: August, June, and May. August is nice and warm, June is sort of harsh, and May is sort of odd. Lily lies to the sisters and tells them her father died in a tractor accident and they are on their way to Virginia to be with their Aunt Bernie. Lily and Rosaleen make somewhat of a home there and go through a lot. Lily meets Zach, a boy who helps out with the beehives, and Rosaleen feels more at ease being around people who don’t judge her based on her color. One day when Lily accompanies Zach she calls her father. He is very upset. May commits suicide after Zach goes to jail. Not too long after, T. Ray shows up at the Boatwright sisters house and while there, Lily finds the courage to stand up to her dad. While doing so she calls him daddy giving him a sense of paternal affection from Lily. August convinces T. Ray to let Lily stay and he agrees. Lily is able to be loved by August, June, and Rosaleen and she is able to develop into a loving person.