The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd is a few years old (written in 2003), but I just read it for the first time and I was blown away. It's the kind of book-reading experience where you want to keep sneaking away to devour just another few pages.
This novel was our latest book club selection, and tells the story of Lily Owens, a young girl in South Carolina in 1964. She has fuzzy memories of her mother's death years earlier, and suffers varying degrees of abuse from her father. Events cause Lily and her black nanny to escape town, and they head for Tiburon, where they are taken in by May, June and August Boatwright, three black beekeeping sisters who just happen to hold answers to Lily's deepest questions.
I honestly couldn't put this book down, as the story was so compelling and the writing so beautiful. I had already seen the movie, and I usually don't enjoy a book as much if I've seen the movie first, but some of the plot details were fuzzy in my mind, so there were still times I was surprised. I had Dakota Fanning's voice narrating the story in my head, but that's okay.
Some other reviews say it even better than I could:
"It's as if Kidd loaded up a take-home plate with treats, and you said 'Oh, I couldn't', and then scarfed it down in the car on the way home." - Entertainment Weekly
"You'll want to tear through the pages. Restrain yourself. The beautiful language and seamless unfolding of this well-written story deserve more. [It] merits sweet time and savoring." - Southern Living
If you're looking for some terrific summer reading, look no further.