Book Discussion Questions
Join in a Secret Life of
Bees Book Discussion at any library.
These questions are intended to help readers reflect upon the
characters, themes, and issues raised by The Secret Life of Bees. There
are no right or wrong answers; the variety of possible answers is a main
reason why book discussions are so rewarding and fun.
- Who is queen bee in this story?
- Were you surprised to learn that T. Ray used to be different,
that he once truly loved Deborah? How do you think Deborah’s leaving
affected him? Did it shed any light on why T. Ray was so cruel and
abusive to Lily?
- Lily’s relationship to her dead mother was complex, ranging from
guilt to idealization, to hatred, to acceptance. What happens to a
daughter when she discovers her mother once abandoned her? Is Lily
right –generally, would people rather die than forgive? Was it
harder for Lily to forgive her mother or herself?
- Had you ever heard of "kneeling on grits"? What qualities did
Lily have that allowed her to survive, endure, and eventually
thrive, despite T. Ray?
- What compelled Rosaleen to spit on the three men’s shoes? What
does it take for a person to stand up with conviction against
brutalizing injustice? What did you like best about Rosaleen?
- Lily grew up without her mother, but in the end she finds a
house full of them. Have you ever had a mother figure in your life
who wasn’t your true mother? Have you ever had to leave home to find
- What does Lily’s relationship with the three sisters and the
Daughters of Mary suggest about the nature of "family" and racial
identity? How does this relate to the significance of the book
- Had you ever heard of the Black Madonna? What do you think of
the story surrounding Our Lady of Chains/The Black Madonna in the
novel? How would the story be different if it had been a picture of
a white Virgin Mary? Do you know women whose lives have been
deepened or enriched by a connection to an empowering Divine Mother?
- May built a wailing wall to help her come to terms with the pain
she felt. Even though we don’t have May’s condition, do we also need
rituals, like wailing walls, to help us deal with our grief and
- How would you describe Lily and Zach’s relationship? What drew
them together? Did you root for them to be together?
- Sue Monk Kidd has said that she intentionally wrote the ending
ambiguously, so that the reader can decide for herself whether or
not Lily accidentally killed her mother. What do you think?
- Project into the future. Does Lily ever see T.Ray again? Does
she become a beekeeper? A writer? What happens to Rosaleen? What
happens to Lily and Zach? Who would Zach be today?
Thank you to Penguin Books and Novelist for permission to use
discussion questions from their publications.
Tips for Book Groups
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