Friday, March 8, 2013

book review: The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell

My thoughts: I'm not one to be easily shocked or made to blush (at least in the privacy of my own home. I fully confess to many blushing incidents on public transportation while reading), yet The Death of Bees had my jaw dropping, cheeks blushing, and my interior monologue saying "she's how old?" All of this is to say, The Death of Bees is not for the faint of heart, but it is a beautiful, haunting, coming of age tale that far more sad than salacious. While it may shock many readers, it's end point isn't the shock value; there's a deep, affecting story at the heart of The Death of Bees.

The Death of Bees is a difficult novel to classify. There are elements of mystery from the novel's first lines:
Eugene Doyle. Born 19 June 1972. Died 17 December 2010, aged thirty-eight. Isabel Anne Macdonald. Born 24 May 1974. Died 18 December 2010, aged thirty-six.
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.  
From here, the story unfolds as part mystery, part contemporary fiction, and part coming of age tale. Marnie and Nelly navigate their lives in some ways quite similar to how they have already been. They must outsmart their neighbors and those searching for their parents. They must learn who to trust. As Marnie and Nelly alternate first-person narratives, the reader slowly learns what happened to Eugene and Isabel. Some days feel quite ordinary for them as teens who can do what they like, while others test their loyalty, strength and will.

Favorite passage: "Of course every girl wishes she could be one of those pop star babes who wave their hands in the air yelling about being survivors but when love sits on one side of you and loneliness on the other, it's hard to stop the touching and the kissing."

The verdict: The Death of Bees is glimpse into the difficult, and often comfortable, grey areas of adolescence, family, friendship and loyalty. Marnie and Nelly enchanted me with their bravery, fierceness and ultimately false bravado. O'Donnell has written a darkly comic novel that utterly enchanted me, and I'm already eagerly awaiting her next work.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 320 pages
Publication date: January 2, 2013
Source: publisher via Edelweiss

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Death of Bees from the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle version.)

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  1. I just show cased this as one of "must read" picks. Sounds Great Carrie.

  2. The cover doesn't do it for me and every time I see it I am reminded of that, but if I actually take a moment to read about it (like I did here) the story sounds really good. I guess I just need to get over the cover.

    1. Yeah, I'm not a big fan of the cover or the title. I picked it up on a whim because there were so few new books coming out right at the beginning of January (and then took two months to review it), but I think you'd enjoy this one!

  3. I'm so pleased that you loved this too. I'm planning to read it next. I hope that I enjoy it as much as you - I'm especially interested about what made you blush!

    1. Jackie, I'll be curious to see how you like it!

  4. I looooooooooooooooooooooved this one!

  5. I read this solely because it came in my Powell's Indiespensable box and was pretty surprised how much I liked it considering all of the Not Happy things in it. Captivating and well done.

  6. I adored this book (and dropped my jaw a number of times, too), AND I loved the cover. The shovel! How could you not love that the shovel is in there?!? ;-)


Thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy reading!