Reception was generally positive. Although the novel does include the underlying theme of the civil rights movement, USA Today felt the novel focused more on Lily's journey towards "self-acceptance, faith and freedom". The novel was originally published in 2002, and has since sold more than six million copies and has been published in 35 countries. It also maintained its position on the New York Times best seller list for two and a half years. In 2004, it was named the "Book Sense Paperback of the Year". It was also one of Good Morning America's "Read-This" Book club picks, and was nominated for the Orange Prize in England.
The book was adapted in to a film in 2008, directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood and produced by Will Smith, with Jada Pinkett Smith, as executive producer. Queen Latifah played August Boatwright; Dakota Fanning played Lily. Alicia Keys played June Boatwright; Jennifer Hudson played Rosaleen; and Sophie Okonedo played May Boatwright.