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
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.
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