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.Book Cover - Secret Life of Bees

  1. Who is queen bee in this story?
  2. 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?
  3. 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?
  4. 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?
  5. 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?
  6. 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 home?
  7. 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 title?
  8. 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?
  9. 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 suffering?
  10. How would you describe Lily and Zach’s relationship? What drew them together? Did you root for them to be together?
  11. 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?
  12. 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.

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Revised 05/25/10