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Free Online Summary Notes for The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
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CHAPTER 10

Summary

Twenty minutes after May leaves, August decides they should go after her. The women walk together and call May’s name. Lily is surprised to hear herself praying the Hail Mary. June calls the police. Suddenly, August stops in her tracks and calls for June--she has found May in the river. August runs into the water and Lily rushes after her. May is lying, dead, in two feet of water. She has a rock on her chest, holding her to the bottom of the river. June, August and Lily pull May from the river. Lily thinks about May’s final moments

The police come and ask questions about May’s death. One of the officers asks Lily about why she is there, which makes Lily nervous. Lily finds herself telling the officer even more lies. As the officer is leaving, he asks Lily to come to the door. He tells her that she is lowering herself by living with these women and that he will come back soon to make sure she has left. That night, Lily sleeps in Rosaleen’s bed and Rosaleen sleeps in May’s bed.

After May’s suicide is declared official and her body has been fixed up at the funeral parlor, she is sent back to the pink house. Lily is surprised to learn they will be sitting with May until she is buried. August tells Lily that this vigil helps them say good-bye to May and it helps May’s spirit leave.

Zach returns during May’s vigil. The girl who sells tickets at the theater told the police which of the boys threw the bottle, so Zach was let out of jail. Zach is accompanied by Clay; both have come to the pink house to express their sympathy for the family’s loss. Zach apologizes for what happened because he heard that it was his mother’s phone call that pushed May over the edge. He believes it is his fault that May committed suicide. August tells him that it is not his fault. Many things could have happened differently but, ultimately, May made the decision.

Lily, August and Zach drape the hives in black cloth. August tells her that this is a very old beekeeper tradition. The hives get covered so bees do not swarm off because the bees ensure that the dead person will live again. August tells Lily that she does not believe that the bees will help May get to heaven, but the black cloths remind the living that death gives way to life.


The Daughters of Mary come over with food and sit with May. As they are sitting in the parlor talking, Sugar-Girl makes a joke about white people--essentially saying that white people have enough money to spend it on ridiculous things. As everyone laughs at the joke, Lily is glad for another reason. No one tells Sugar-Girl to remember that there is a white person present. Lily feels like she is one of them. She thought that the civil rights movement was supposed to makes blacks and whites get along. However, after this moment, Lily thinks a better plan is to make everyone colorless together.

On the second day of the vigil, August finds May’s suicide note. In the note May tells August and June that it was her time to die, but it is their time to live. She warns that they better not “mess it up.” August and June hug. August tells June that May was right. She says that June has only been half-way living her life for too long and that she should marry Neil.

Neil spends as much time at the house as the Daughters and he is confused by June’s new devotion to him. August takes the cloths off the bee hives and May is buried.

Notes

The epigraph for this chapter tells us that bees live short lives, and when their environments are tense and their work especially strenuous, they die even younger. The major event of Chapter 10 is May’s death. Like the worker bees in the epigraph, May dies young because her environment it too much for her to handle.

The result of May’s untimely death is a heightened appreciation of life for the other characters. August calls June’s attention to the way she has been “half-living” her life and June seems to transform.

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