Friday, January 04, 2013

Bookish Thoughts: The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell

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.  ~ Excerpt from The Death of Bees

The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell
Harper, 2013
Fiction; 336 pgs

When I read the description of The Death of Bees, I knew I had to read it.  Two sisters, fifteen year old Marnie and twelve year old Nelly, haven't had the best of childhoods.  Neglected and abused by drug addicted parents, the girls have learned to fend for themselves.  The sudden death of their parents puts the girls in an awkward position.  They fear being separated and put into foster care and so decide to bury the bodies in the backyard.  Orphaned and trying their best to survive, the girls can't help but be drawn to their kindly elderly neighbor who had noticed something was amiss, believing the girls had, once again, been abandoned.  Lennie is still grieving the loss of his lover and lives with the stigma of being a sexual offender after being arrested for propositioning an under age prostitute.  He finds comfort in caring for the girls and only wants to earn their trust and help them.

Set in Glasgow, the novel is told from the point of view of Lennie, Marnie and Nelly, each having their own very distinct voices.  Lennie is a sweetheart, a gay man, who, despite abuse from neighbors, has avoided turning bitter.  He has faced his own challenges in life and he offers the girls something they've never really had before: a loving home.  

Nelly and Marnie couldn't be more different.  Marnie is one tough young woman.  She has taken care of her sister all Nelly's life just about.  She is street smart.  She is an excellent student, earning straight A's in school even despite her extracurricular activities.  Marnie has no reason to think her life will amount to much, and yet she knows she wants more from life than what she's had to live with so far.  Her sister, Nelly, has a gift for playing the violin.  She speaks in a formal manner, but is not always able to hold her tongue.  There is an innocence about her, and she clearly has been damaged by her past.

The secret about the parents' deaths have puts a significant strain on the two girls and their relationship, and yet both of them know the importance of sticking together and hiding the truth.  They both long for normalcy.  Marnie wants to get on with her life and Nelly wants to get back that family feeling.  While Marnie distrusts everyone, Nelly is quick to lean on anyone who shows an interest in her.  It puts them all in a dangerous position.

Lisa O'Donnell has created characters that are not only believable, but who pull at one's heart strings.  It was impossible not to be pulled into the lives of the three main characters and to care about them--and root for them.

This is not an easy book to read.  It is dark and at times gritty.  The reader gets a real taste of the ugliness of life.  But what makes this book so great is how the author weaves rays of light into the dark.  While showing humans at their worst, it also shows them at their best.  Sometimes in unexpected ways.

Rating:  * (Very Good)

To learn more about Lisa O'Donnell and her book, please visit the author's website.

I hope you will check out what others had to say about The Death of Bees on the TLC Book Tours route!


Many thanks to the TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour. Copy of The Death of Bees provided by publisher.




© 2013, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

30 comments:

  1. This sounds like a great read! I'm glad you enjoyed it, Wendy.

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    1. Melody - It was good. I am glad I read it. :-)

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  2. Ooooh, another book I'll have to download! It sounds so good. And your review, as always, is so well written!

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    1. Linda - I hope you like it if you read it, Linda!

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  3. This book has been getting great buzz. The excerpt you chose would certainly pull me in. This sounds really good!

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    1. Kathy - I hadn't heard of it before I agreed to review it and then all of a sudden it's being mentioned everywhere! The opening of the book is definitely a good hook.

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    1. Jennifer - I'd love to her your take on it! There's so much too it and I didn't even come close to getting into it.

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  5. Fantastic review..I didn't like it as much as you did, but you will see my comments when my review is up on January 30. :)

    Have a great day!!

    Elizabeth
    Silver's Reviews
    My Blog

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    1. Elizabeth - I will be sure and look for your review!

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  6. This sounds really good! Adding it to my list -- thanks for introducing me to this novel, Wendy.

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    1. Steph - It was definitely interesting, and I liked that the story was told from multiple perspectives. I hope you like it if you do read it!

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  7. I like that there is a balance between people at their worst and people at their best. This sounds like an amazing story!

    Thanks for being on the tour.

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    1. Heather J. - It was a fast read too! I thought it might be hard to put down, and it was.

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  8. This is something that I really want to read. It sounds like a book that it is indeed dark and gritty, but one that may teach many lessons, and may indeed make me really care about the characters. This was a great review, and I enjoyed reading it. It sounds intense.

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    1. Heather - It was hard not to care about the characters. I still think of Marnie from time to time.

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  9. oh wow, I love dark and gritty, so I need to get to my copy. Great review Wendy.

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    1. Diane - Thanks, Diane! I wasn't sure what to expect when I started it--if it would be on the lighter side or dark because of the subject matter. I think the author did a great job with it.

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  10. When I first glanced at the book cover I thought it read "The Death Bees", so I was imagining some sort of frantic, buzzy, bee-related apocalypse story. I am only slightly disappointed that it's not that....it certainly sounds like a packed storyline, so I think I'll seek it out. Thanks for recommending :)

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    1. Bruce - Now that would be some book! I'm not sure it'd be one I'd want to read, but I would be curious. ;-)

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  11. I am hearing lots of good things about this book... I really must read it at some point!

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    1. Kelly - It was a good book to end the year with. :-)

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  12. Hi there, I'm the writer of The Death of Bees and touring this wonderful blog. If you have any questions or queries I would love to hear them.

    Best
    Lisa O'Donnell

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    1. Lisa - Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting!

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  13. I have to read this one! That excerpt alone convinced me and then your review...wow!

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    1. Kathleen - The excerpt pulled me right in too! It's a good book and one worth reading.

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  14. The excerpt reeled me in and you convinced me!

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    1. Stacy - It's a great opener, isn't it? It reeled me in immediately too.

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  15. Hi! What a fantastic review, thank you! I was drawn to the book when I read its summary but its your review that convinced me to put this on my list of books to read. I tend to like dark books about relationships between people and coping with life but I need some levity or something...that Lisa O'Donnell "weaves rays of light into the dark" is just perfect.

    I have much catching up to do since I had no computer and was dealing with health problems the last 3 months of 2012, so don't be surprised if you see many comments from me in old posts!

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    1. Amy - Thank you! I'm the same way. Summaries are what initially capture my interest, but hearing what others have to say about a particular book really do the convincing. I think you'd like this one and hope you get a chance to read it!

      I am so sorry to hear about your health problems, Amy. I hope things are better for you now!

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