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Free Online Summary Notes for The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
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Lily spends a lot of time alone after August’s gives her Deborah’s things. She thinks about how hard it is to forgive. August tells Lily to grieve for a while.

June begins planning her wedding, which will take place in October. One day Lily overhears June and August talking about how much May would have loved the wedding.

When Lily feels like eating again she goes to the kitchen where she meets Rosaleen. Rosaleen is wearing a new dress and tells Lily that she is going to register to vote. August asks Lily to come, but she decides to stay home. After the women leave, Lily wishes she went with them. She wants to tell Rosaleen that she is proud of her.

Zach visits Lily and asks if she will have to go back with her father. Lily says she thinks she will. Zach says he will visit her. Lily thinks how Zach could never knock on T. Ray’s door. Zach tells Lily that he is going to an all-white high school the next year. Lily asks if he is sure he wants to do that and Zach says that someone has to do it.

The next day Lily wears her mother’s whale pin. She is feeling better. August tells her that a hive is missing a queen and that someone is coming over with a new queen. August shows Lily the queenless colony. Without a queen, the bees lose their morale and eventually die. August reminds Lily of the story she told her about Beatrix. Lily says she figured August was telling her to go back to T. Ray. August says she was actually suggesting that Our Lady could be a stand-in mother for Deborah. August tells Lily that Our Lady is located inside Lily’s heart. She is always with her.

Later that afternoon, Lily is home alone when she hears a knock at the door. When she answers the door, she is startled to find T. Ray. He comments that the statue of Our Lady looks like something from a junkyard. He tells Lily that found her because of the collect phone call she made. Clayton’s office showed up on T. Ray’s phone bill. He went to the office and the secretary told him where Lily was staying. T. Ray notices Lily’s pin and asks where she got it. Lily explains that Deborah stayed in the pink house and that August gave her the pin. T. Ray goes into a rage and hits Lily. He is confused and calls her Deborah. He repeatedly asks why she left him. Lily shouts at him, telling him who she is. Finally she calls him “Daddy” and he snaps out of his trance. August and Rosaleen return; Lily motions for them to be quiet. T. Ray demands that Lily come home with him. She says she will not leave. August and Rosaleen step in. August tells T. Ray that Lily has a home with her as long as she likes. T. Ray continues to demand that Lily come with him. The Daughters come into the house. August tells T. Ray that he would be doing her a favor if he let Lily stay. She tells him that Lily has become her apprentice bee keeper and that they love her. T. Ray finally agrees, saying “good riddance.” T. Ray gets into his truck and starts to drive away. Lily chases him and he stops. She tells him that she needs to know if she killed her mother. T. Ray tells her that she did not mean to do it, but, yes, she killed Deborah. He drives away

Lily moves into June’s room after June’s wedding. August and the Daughters made the room into something Lily could never have imagined because it is so beautiful. Clayton works on the charges against Lily and Rosaleen and believes they will be dropped by Thanksgiving. Lily becomes friends with Clayton’s daughter, Becca. She and Becca go to the same school as Zach and sit with him whenever they can at lunch. The other kids tease them, but Lily and Becca do not care. Lily has forgiven herself and her mother. She sits in her new room and writes everything down. Lily keeps up May’s wall--she gives it fresh prayers and fresh rocks. Lily visits the black Mary every day and feels that she has more mothers than anyone else.


The final epigraph of this novel, found at the beginning of Chapter Fourteen, tells us that bees will die without a queen in the colony. However, if a new queen is introduced, wonderful things can happen. This chapter encompasses the plot’s climax and resolution.

The climax of a plot is the major turning point that allows the protagonist to resolve the conflict. The climax of The Secret Life of Bees occurs when Lily confronts T. Ray in the pink house. Throughout the novel, Lily has been struggling with who she is in relation to her mother’s death. In other words, Lily is having difficulty deciding what kind of woman she wants to be without the direction of a mother. As suggested in various epigraphs, Lily is wandering senselessly like a bee without a queen. When Lily confronts T. Ray she makes the decision not to live with him any longer. This decision is different than the one she made when she ran away because it is a permanent decision. It is also an informed decision. Lily realizes that T. Ray is a destructive person and that she cannot live subjected to his close-minded and cruel ways. This is an adult decision. In this scene Lily also learns, definitively, that she was responsible for her mother’s death. That Lily chases T. Ray in order to find out this information suggests she is prepared for the possibility that she has killed her mother. This turning point, in which Lily refuses to submit to T. Ray and prepares to reconcile the guilt she has for killing her mother, allows Lily to resolve her past and begin anew.

The resolution of the novel is that Lily replaces her “queen” and starts over. Throughout the novel, Lily has been in search of herself as much as she has been in search of her mother. Learning the truth about her mother--both that Deborah left her and that she was responsible for Deborah’s death--allows Lily to begin the process of forgiving them both. In forgiving, Lily is set free to start fresh. Because she freed herself from T. Ray, Lily gives herself the opportunity for a bright future and finally learns what it is like to be part of a loving family. Lily, who has been lost without a queen, finds a series of new queens in the new women in her life as well as in Mary.

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