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.
Marnie and her little sister Nelly are on their own now. Only they know what happened to their parents, Izzy and Gene, and they aren’t telling. While life in Glasgow’s Hazlehurst housing estate isn’t grand, they do have each other. Besides, it’s only one year until Marnie will be considered an adult and can legally take care of them both.
Written with fierce sympathy and beautiful precision, told in alternating voices, The Death of Bees is an enchanting, grimly comic tale of three lost souls who, unable to answer for themselves, can answer only for each other.
Well, this was a pleasant surprise. Despite it’s twisted, morbid plotline of two sisters burying their parents in their backyard (and a dog that has an uncanny knack of digging up body parts from flowerbeds,) The Death of Bees filled me up with warmth and made me smile. Built with a unique cast of memorable characters, with their own fears and quirks, O’ Donnell crafts a brilliant tale about family ties. Sometimes real families aren’t formed by blood ties. Perhaps Marnie and Nelly are by far not the most innocent girls, but I still found myself cheering them on every one of those three hundred pages.
I love multiple perspectives, and O’Donnell does it exceptionally well. We unravel the story with Marnie and Nelly (the two sisters) and Lennie (their 70 year old gay, misunderstood “sex offender” neighbor.) What usually happens in books with multiple perspectives is that the voices blend together and don’t sound like two different people. Perhaps because each character is so distinct from each other that there was never a problem differentiating between them. Marnie has a dark, rebellious edge, while Nelly autistic eloquence sounds like the Queen of England (with a bit of swearing). Nelly reminds me of Becky of Glee’s inner voice.
Very well-paced book. I admit that fifty pages in I had no idea where the story was headed. I was worried that this would be one of those books that hooked you in with a intriguing premise, then left you stranded with a messy story that went nowhere. Thankfully, that didn’t happen and the story picked up as the story progressed. This is not also one of those books that felt like it should’ve ended fifty pages ago.
There are moments where you just have to believe. This was one of my major worries going into this book. I just didn’t know how O’ Donnell could convince me that two minors would be able to live without their parents. Where’s the landlord when rent can’t be paid? What about taxes? What about pesky census people? Can their two parents have been so isolated from friends and family that nobody is suspicious when they disappear? There were quite a few parts that I felt were just TOO convenient. But I was still grateful that it happened.
Bits of Humor:
Even though the novel touches upon many heavy-handed topics such as parental neglect and drug abuse, there were also bits of humor that not only made me smile, but made me like the characters. Marnie has a wicked sense of humor. And there’s also a wife that barges into the house to pick a fight, run aways, but forgets her baby in the house.
Overall, a very enjoyable book that I wasn’t expect to like this much. It explores family ties, while not being afraid to delve into more heavy-handed topics such as parental abuse and neglect. It’s a book I wholeheartedly recommend to people not afraid of a book with attitude, but will fill you up with warmth.
Want more of Lisa O’Donnell’s The Death of Bees? Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TLC tour stops:
Wednesday, January 2nd: Sweet Tidbits
Thursday, January 3rd: Walking With Nora
Friday, January 4th: Literary Feline
Monday, January 7th: Mrs. Q: Book Addict
Tuesday, January 8th: Tiffany’s Bookshelf
Wednesday, January 9th: Broken Teepee
Thursday, January 10th: Sweet Southern Home
Monday, January 14th: A Patchwork of Books
Thursday, January 17th: Kritters Ramblings
Monday, January 21st: Unabridged Chick
Tuesday, January 22nd: JulzReads
Thursday, January 24th: A Reader of Fictions
Thursday, January 24th: Reflections of a Bookaholic
Monday, January 28th: A Bookworm’s World
Tuesday, January 29th: My Bookshelf
Wednesday, January 30th: Silver’s Reviews