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This month’s book is: The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Summary (by BN.com):
Living on a peach farm in South Carolina with her harsh, unyielding father, Lily Owens has shaped her entire life around one devastating, blurred memory – the afternoon her mother was killed, when Lily was four. Since then, her only real companion has been the fierce-hearted, and sometimes just fierce, black woman Rosaleen, who acts as her “stand-in mother.”
When Rosaleen insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily knows it’s time to spring them both free. They take off in the only direction Lily can think of, toward a town called Tiburon, South Carolina – a name she found on the back of a picture amid the few possessions left by her mother.
There they are taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters named May, June, and August. Lily thinks of them as the calendar sisters and enters their mesmerizing secret world of bees and honey, and of the Black Madonna who presides over this household of strong, wise women. Maternal loss and betrayal, guilt and forgiveness entwine in a story that leads Lily to the single thing her heart longs for most.
Discussion Questions (Warning: Spoiler’s Ahead!):
1. What comes to mind when reading the title of the story? When seeing the cover?
2. What expectations do you have for this story?
3. What might Lily be longing for while she watches the bees?
4. Lily calls her father T. Ray instead of “Daddy.” What does this say about their relationship?
5. Should Lily feel guilty for the death of her mother, why or why not?
6. Describe the relationship between Lily and Rosaleen.
7. Why do you think T. Ray’s version of the day his wife died is slightly different than Lily remembers it? Who’s version could be right?
8. If you were Lily, would you have run away and gotten Rosaleen out of jail?
9. Another version of the day Lily’s mother died is told to Lily. Do you think T. Ray is making these stories up to punish Lily? What do you think really happened on that day?
10. Do you think Rosaleen will become a motherly figure to Lily later in the story? In what ways is she acting like one now?
11. A voice tells Lily that her “jar is open.” What might this mean?
12. What is the significance of the Black Madonna?
13. What is your first impression of August, May and June? Why do you think August was so quick to let Rosaleen and Lily stay with them?
14. What might be the purpose of the wall with the pieces of paper stuck in it?
15. Why do you think June is so against Lily and Rosaleen staying at the house with them?
16. Do you like the idea of a wailing wall? Do you wear your heart on your sleeve like May?
17. When Lily gets the hiccups, Rosaleen tells her to hold her breath, pat her head, and rub her tummy. Just out of curiosity, how do you get rid of your hiccups?
Book Club Discussion #1: Which character can you relate to so far, and why?
18. Why do you think June won’t get married?
19. Explain your thoughts on the scene where Lily is about to touch Mary’s heart. How do you feel about Lily’s realization that she is not like the others?
20. Why do you think Lily and Zach become friends despite their differences? Do you think true love can overcome these differences?
21. Should Lily have called T. Ray? Why might she have called him?
22. Do you feel that knowing someone’s favorite color proves that they care about or love that person?
Book Club Discussion #2: If you could have your own special month like the Calendar Sisters, which month would you choose and why?
Discussion Project #1: Create your own acrostic poem like Lily did for DADDY using the letters in your first name. To learn how to write an acrostic poem, click here.
23. Why might June have learned to love Lily?
24. Did Zach do the right thing by not telling the man who threw the coke bottle?
25. Why was May so distraught over the news of Zach? How did she react differently with this news than with other news?
26. Why might May have chosen to end her life? Was her death in any way foreshadowed earlier in the story or inevitable?
27. Remembering earlier in the story when Rosaleen mentioned that bees swarm before death, was there any connection between the bees and May’s death?
28. What lesson should readers take from May’s suicide letter?
29. At this point in the story, do you feel Lily has officially become part of the Boatwright’s family? Why do you feel that she has or has not?
30.Do you think Lily has a right to hate her mother for leaving her? Do you think Deborah was wrong to leave her daughter?
31. If Lily wasn’t Deborah’s daughter, do you think August would have let her stay with them at the pink house?
32. Why might Deborah have underlined the poem by William Blake? What is the meaning of the poem? How does it compare to Deborah?
33. Is Lily right – generally, would people rather die than forgive? Was it harder for Lily to forgive herself or her mother?
34. Why did T. Ray call out Deborah’s name while yelling at his daughter?
35. Do you think T. Ray truly cared for Lily in some way by letting her stay with August and her family?
36. In what ways was August sort of like the Black Madonna? Was she truly the mother of thousands?
37. How did being in the company of the calender sisters and the Daughters of Mary transform Lily?
38. Who is the queen bee in this story?
39. Who was your favorite character and why?
Discussion Project #2: Let’s think about the future of the characters. Does Lily see her father again? Does she become a beekeeper or writer? What happens to Rosaleen? Lily and Zach?
Book Club Dare #1: Watch the movie, “The Secret Life of Bees.” Which do you prefer better, the movie or the book? Why?
40. Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?
Want to help save honey bees? Here are a few links to get you started:
You can help the Honey Bees with Haagen- Dazs Ice Cream. Use this website for more information, and for printables and games.
Learn more with PBS, and watch the episode “Silence of the Bees”
Join the hunt for bees! Sign up for the Great Sunflower Project.
Learn more about Colony Collapse Disorder with Burt’s Bees.