In The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, fourteen-year-old Lily Melissa Owens grows from a child to a young adult without help from her parents. It is hard to grow yourself and educate yourself when you are alone. Lily’s father T-Ray was there but he was not supportive and did not love her like a daughter, he treated her abusively.
Lily faces the usual challenges of adolescence: a maturing body, relationships with the opposite sex, independence, identifying talents, choosing a career, and adjusting responsibly to community life, plus she is haunted by her mother’s death in a gun accident.
Her father is bitter and rude. Lily lives in a South Carolina town in 1964, a period when women and black people faced social restrictions. Lily leaves home to discover the truth about herself, her family, and her place in society. She and Rosaleen find refuge with the Boatwright sisters, who are black as well as feminists.
Calendar Sisters and the Daughters of Mary had that special bond of being one big family. They all cared and looked after one another, like when Lily was almost taken back to Sylvan by her evil father T. Ray. When the women saw Lily was in trouble, they all banded together to overcome and keep T-Ray away from Lily.
Their team work and care are impeccable with timing; they all knew when to help Lily and when to let her learn some of the skills on her own. But being around these has given her many motherly figures and learned to speak out against things that are wrong. She grew and matured more and more as she lived longer and longer in the Boatwright house. Zack is another person in Lily’s life who is important because he gives her courage and to be confident.
When Zach is jailed unjustly, he comes out a different man — a bit harder, but also more determined than ever. He encourages Lily, giving her a journal for her writing, and falls in love with her. But he knows the danger of their relationship, so he keeps his distance, especially around others.
Zach teaches Lily that if she can imagine something she can make it come true; he promises her they will eventually be together. He is another positive and strong model for Lily when it comes to reaching for her dreams and dealing with the circumstances of the 1960s South. Learning these new things, Lily is no longer defined by her mistakes, but what she learned from them and the people who helped her along the way.