Excerpt from The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Secret Life of Bees

by Sue Monk Kidd

The Secret Life of Bees
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jan 2002, 320 pages
    Jan 2003, 320 pages

  • Rate this book

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

He walked toward me with his thumbs jammed into his pockets and his eyes squinted half shut from the glare. I watched his shadow slide over the dirt and weeds and thought he had come to punish me for stabbing a peach. I didn't even know why I was doing it.

Instead he said, "Lily, you're starting school tomorrow, so there are things you need to know. About your mother."

For a moment everything got still and quiet, as if the wind had died and the birds had stopped flying. When he squatted down in front of me, I felt caught in a hot dark I could not break free of.

"It's time you knew what happened to her, and I want you to hear it from me. Not from people out there talking."

We had never spoken of this, and I felt a shiver pass over me. The memory of that day would come back to me at odd moments. The stuck window. The smell of her. The clink of hangers. The suitcase. The way they'd fought and shouted. Most of all the gun on the floor, the heaviness when I'd lifted it.

I knew the explosion I'd heard that day had killed her. The sound still sneaked into my head occasionally and surprised me. Sometimes it seemed that when I'd held the gun there hadn't been any noise at all, that it had come later, but other times, sitting alone on the back steps, bored and wishing for something to do, or pent up in my room on a rainy day, I felt I had caused it, that when I'd lifted the gun, the sound had torn through the room and gouged out our hearts.

It was a secret knowledge that would slip up and overwhelm me, and I would take off running -- - even if it was raining out, I ran -- - straight down the hill to my special place in the peach orchard. I'd lie right down on the ground and it would calm me. Now T. Ray scooped up a handful of dirt and let if fall out of his hands. "The day she died, she was cleaning out the closet," he said. I could not account for the strange tone of his voice, an unnatural sound, how it was almost, but not quite, kind.

Cleaning the closet. I had never considered what she was doing those last minutes of her life, why she was in the closet, what they had fought about.

"I remember," I said. My voice sounded small and faraway to me, like it was coming from an ant hole in the ground.

His eyebrows lifted, and he brought his face closer to me. Only his eyes showed confusion. "You what?"

"I remember," I said again. "You were yelling at each other."

A tightening came into his face. "Is that right?" he said. His lips had started to turn pale, which was the thing I always watched for. I took a step backward.

"Goddamn it, you were four years old!" he shouted. "You don't know what you remember."

In the silence that followed, I considered lying to him, saying, I take it back. I don't remember anything. Tell me what happened, but there was such a powerful need in me, pent up for so long, to speak about it, to say the words.

I looked down at my shoes, at the nail I'd dropped when I'd seen him coming. "There was a gun."

"Christ," he said.

He looked at me a long time, then walked over to the bushel baskets stacked at the back of the stand. He stood there a minute with his hands balled up before he turned around and came back.

"What else?" he said. "You tell me right now what you know."

"The gun was on the floor -- - "

"And you picked it up," he said. "I guess you remember that."

The exploding sound had started to echo around in my head. I looked off in the direction of the orchard, wanting to break and run.

"I remember picking it up," I said. "But that's all."

He leaned down and held me by the shoulders, gave me a little shake. "You don't remember anything else? You're sure? Now, think."

From The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, Copyright © January 2002, Viking Press, a division of Penguin Putnam, Inc., used by permission.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Mothers
    The Mothers
    by Brit Bennett
    Every now and then the publishing industry gushes about a young author destined to become the next ...
  • Book Jacket
    by Tom Jackson
    Growing up in Mumbai in the '70s, I still remember herbs kept fresh in small glasses of water, ...
  • Book Jacket: Mercury
    by Margot Livesey
    Margot Livesey explores the moneyed suburbs of Boston and creates a modern morality tale chronicling...
Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Bone Tree
by Greg Iles

An epic trilogy of blood and race, family and justice.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Comet Seekers
    by Helen Sedgwick

    A magical, intoxicating debut novel, both intimate and epic.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    North of Crazy
    by Neltje

    The remarkable life of a woman who carves her own singular path.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    News of the World
    by Paulette Jiles

    Exquisitely rendered and morally complex--a brilliant work of historical fiction.

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win The World of Poldark

Win the book & DVD

Enter to win The World of Poldark and the full first series on DVD.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

One S D N M A S

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.


Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!

Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.