Monday, June 23, 2014

Book Review: The Death of Bees

The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell is not about bees, but it is about death. After Marnie (15) and Nelly (12) discover their parents have died, they say good riddance to the drug-addled negligent mother and abusive father who made their lives miserable. The girls bury them in the backyard and hope the social workers will leave them alone. If they can keep their secret until Marnie turns 16, she’ll be old enough to take custody of her sister and they’ll be free.

Interspersed with bits of humor, this dark coming of age story takes place in Glasgow as Marnie and Nelly connect with their gay neighbor Lennie, who is grieving the loss of his partner. The saga unfolds in alternating chapters from each of their perspectives. Lennie assumes the girls’ parents have run off again, as was their tendency, but he starts to get suspicious as time goes on. Their maternal grandfather turns up, as well, and threatens to destroy what little sense of peace the three have finally found.

Marnie starts off as a tough spitfire who grows to accept her own vulnerability, while Nelly—a bit autistic with a Queen’s vernacular—discovers that she needs to step up and be the caregiver sometimes. You can’t help but root for each of them, clever and fierce in their own ways, as they try to forge a path against the cyclical traps of poverty and abuse. 


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