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Free Online Summary Notes for The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
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CHAPTER 9

Summary

Tiburon is in the midst of a heat wave. Lily and August take sugar water to the hives to save the bees. Later, after lunch, Lily and August see May and Rosaleen running through the sprinkler like children. Lily and August join in. Soon June comes out and Lily wets her without thinking. Lily and June fight over the sprinkler until they collapse in laughter. June and Lily hug.

Everyone lies in her bed that afternoon because of the heat. Lily thinks of her mother and of the lies she has been telling everyone. She grows worried that she will have to leave the pink house. Lily goes inside and finds May on the kitchen floor with a box of graham crackers. As Lily drinks a glass of juice she sees that May has made a trail of graham cracker crumbs. May tells Lily she made the trail so the roaches will follow it out of the house. Lily is stunned because her mother used to do the same thing. Lily asks May of she ever knew Deborah Fontanel. May says that Deborah stayed in the honey house and was the sweetest thing. May begins humming “Oh! Susanna” and goes to the wall. Lily goes to the honey house and takes a nap, thinking of how her mother was once in the very same place.

A few days later, Lily finally works up the courage to tell August the truth. Lily meets Zach on the way to see August and he asks her to take a ride with him. Lily says she has to talk to August, but Zach tells her that August is with Sugar-Girl. Lily decides to go with Zach. Lily and Zach go to the auto-parts store, which is two doors down from the movie theater. Lily realizes this is the day that Jack Palance is supposed to come to town.

There is a group of white men waiting by the ticket booth. Suddenly a white man yells at a black boy across the street. The boys cross the street; Zach gets out of the car. The men and boys continue to yell back and forth. Lily sees one of the boys throw his R.C. Cola bottle. When she opens her eyes, she sees one of the white men holding his bleeding nose. The police come and take all of the boys away because none will admit who threw the bottle. After sitting in the car for a while, Lily decides to walk back to the pink house. When she returns, Clayton Forrest is there and everyone has heard about what happened. Clayton tells them that they cannot do anything to get Zach out of jail for at least five days because the judge is out of town.

Lily and August visit Zach in jail. Lily does not know what to say to him, so she tells Zach that she will write about everything that happened to him in a story.


The women decide not to tell May what happened because they do not want to upset her. However, one night May answers a phone call from Zach’s mother and learns that he is in jail. May refuses to speak. Rosaleen gets a cold towel and places it on May’s forehead. Finally, May says that she is OK and announces that she is going to the wall.

Notes

The epigraph for this chapter tells us that communication is essential in the bee society. Likewise, communication is important for humans and when communication is misread or fails all together, bad things can happen.

Chapter Nine begins with the emergence of communication between June and Lily. As we learned in the previous chapter--people, like bees, are complex. Lily has begun to understand why June is so cold--she refuses to serve white people because she will not consent to inferiority and she refuses to marry Neil because was once a jilted bride. It seems that June has decided to see Lily for more than her skin color and accept her into the fold.

Lily’s inability to communicate with August leads to her witnessing the clash between the white men and the black boys. The inability, or unwillingness, of the men and the boys to communicate leads to a smashed nose and time in prison. “Lack of communication” is really a euphemism for what is represented between the men and the boys. The truth is this clash is one of many that occur in a society that ignored and repressed the voices of the entire African-American race. Many societies were and are frequently disrupted by the dominant group’s refusal to communicate with minority groups.

Finally, the decision not to communicate Zach’s imprisonment to May will lead to tragedy in the next chapter--virtually destroying the fabric of the pink house.

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