For my birthday last month Todd got me a subscription to Indiespensables from Powell’s Books in Oregon. Every six weeks I will get a first edition of a new book, signed by the author, in a specially designed slipcase, with extra prizes inside! Best present ever! My first installment was going to be The Death of Bees and was shipping on January 31st. Every day, starting on February 1st, like a little kid waiting for the toy they ordered with cereal box tops, I would run home and check the mailbox. I was excited about the book, I’m always excited about a book, but I have to admit that I was just as excited about the extra surprise gifts inside. I’m a sucker for that stuff, and it’s going to be a little like Christmas every six weeks, opening the box to see what Santa (or Powell’s) sent me this time. Finally it was here (it didn’t take 6-8 weeks, but it sure felt like it!). I ripped the box open the minute I walked in the door, finding a jar of organic honey, a tube of beeswax lip balm, an ARC for another book, and yes, the main attraction, The Death of Bees, signed, in a beautifully designed slipcover. I took care of those pesky little things that need doing, feeding the kids, walking the dog, helping with homework, and settled onto the couch with my new book. And there I stayed, engrossed, until I was done.
I’m not sure I’ve ever read a starker opening paragraph:
“Today is Christmas Eve. Today is my birthday. Today I am fifteen. Today I buried my parents in the backyard. Neither of them were beloved.”
The book, set in the slums of Glasgow, Scotland, tells the story of two sisters, Nelly and Marnie, and their struggle to stay together while hiding the death of their parents. Enter the ostracized neighbor Lennie, and it is a story of three people that need each other, a story of a family-formed vs a family-born. It is a dark tale, sometimes humorous, often horrific, but almost always sad. Parents don’t always do the best they can by their children, the “system” often fails those it is designed to protect, even the “good guys” are flawed, and the age of innocence never exists for some. It is a story of secrets, “I’m never getting a tattoo. My secrets are etched safely on the inside and I intend to keep them there.”, and a story of death, “I fear death. I have always feared death. It comes like a gale and never with permission. I would meet it again today.”. But ultimately The Death of Bees is a story of love, hope, and sacrifice.
Title: The Death of Bees
Author: Lisa O’Donnell
Publication: HarperCollins, January 2013