Tuesday, January 15, 2013

{read: coming of age} The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell

My new fiction obsession these days is finding interesting narrative voices. Think of Hig in The Dog Stars, Katey Kontent in The Rules of Civility, or Hazel in The Fault in Our Stars. These characters have distinct points of view and convey them in a way that makes me want to follow them around and listen to what they have to say, even if they're just doing their grocery shopping.

The Death of Bees brings three new voices, each with its own clear perspective on the world. Interestingly, I found myself paying the most attention at first to Nelly, whose chapters are rarely longer than a few paragraphs. While her older sister Marnie and their neighbor Lennie tell most of the story, Nelly has so little to say that you feel it has to be important. Yet I confess that it was the first few lines, which are in Marnie's voice, that convinced me to give this one a try:

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 Nelly are determined not to go into foster care and set out to cover up their parents' deaths until Marnie turns 16 and is a legal adult. Will they succeed? You wouldn't think you'd be rushing back to the Glaswegian slums and lives of grinding poverty every chance you get, but I couldn't put this one down. In the end, perhaps surprisingly, it's a story that's more about hope than despair.

The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell (Harper, 2013)
My rating: 5 stars

No comments:

Post a Comment