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Picks and Pans Review: The Secret Life of Bees

updated 02/04/2002 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/04/2002 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Sue Monk Kidd

Don't be put off by the bumblebee logos or the tiresome tidbits from insect fact books (wow, bees aren't so different from you and me!) that begin each chapter. Populated with rich, believable characters and propelled by a swiftly paced plot, this debut novel is a cut above most coming-of-age tales. Its heroine: Lily Owens, a white 14-year-old growing up in 1960s rural South Carolina with her cruel farmer father and a kind African-American servant named Rosaleen, who moved in to raise her after Lily's mother died a decade earlier. Lily's quest: to learn the truth about her mother's life and death. She succeeds, improbably enough, by running away from home with Rosaleen and moving into a Pepto Bismol-pink house owned by three black bee-farming sisters named May, June and August. Lily's father ultimately finds her, but not (as befits the genre) before she has found herself. You'll be glad you went along for the ride. (Viking, $24.95)

Bottom Line: Buzz-worthy

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