Fourteen-year-old Lily Owens lost her beloved mother when she was only four under tragic circumstances clouded by time and secrecy. She later found a fiercely protective "stand-in," her abusive father's outspoken housekeeper, Rosaleen. Ignoring differences in age and color and the fact that racial hatred seethed during the summer of 1964 in rural South Carolina these two unlikely companions set off on a seemingly aimless pilgrimage that ends at the home of a trio of eccentric bee-keeping black sisters. Lily tells her remarkable tale of longing and love in an idiom and accent heard far south of the Mason-Dixon Line, but the lessons learned during her odyssey into the world of bees and their "secret life" are universal and everlasting. In her debut novel, Sue Monk Kidd proves herself adept both at storytelling and at creating characters who are simultaneously outlandish and credible in other words, worthy to join the ranks of such first-rate Southern stylists as Kaye Gibbons, Anne Rivers Siddons, and Ellen Gilchrist.