REVIEW å The Death of Bees

FREE READ ´ JOHNS-CYCLING-DIARY.CO.UK ´ Lisa ODonnell

The Death of BeesA riveting brilliantly written debut novel The Death of Bees is a coming of age story in which two young sisters attempt to hold the world at bay after the mysterious death of their parentsMarnie. What on earth is happening to the bees They say it is an ecological disaster an environmental holocaust Every day I wonder what the blazes can be causing this abuse of our ecosystem Chemicals I hear pesticides I don’t understand it really I don’t Our planet faces extinction and yet nobody seems to care Am I afraid You bet your bottom dollar I am The environment in which sisters Marnie and Nelly find themselves does indeed look poisoned beyond hope How can anything survive This is working class Glasgow and the girls are alone The book opens with one of the better first paragraphs I have read Today is Christmas Eve Today is my birthday Today I am fifteen Today I buried my parents in the backyard Neither of them were belovedMarnie’s little sister Helen aka Nelly has gone and done it Put the pillow over her father Gene’s drugged out face and completed for him the self destruction he had made his life work He would abuse her and Marnie no Mom Izzy made another in a lifetime of awful decisions and headed off to the shack to add her name to the list of those who have gone before Consider it addition by subtraction No need to worry about all potential food money going up noses into veins or being poured from amber bottles No concern about other sorts of abuse too But if the authorities find out the girls will be separated for sure tossed back into foster care with who knows what sorts The solution A uiet back yard burial Who is to take care of these two I suppose I’ve always taken care of us really I was changing nappies at five years old and shopping at seven cleaning and doing laundry as soon as I knew my way to the launderette and pushing Nelly about in her wee buggy when I was six They used to call me wee Maw around the towers that’s how useless Gene and Izzy were They just never showed up for anything and it was always left to me and left to Nelly when she got old enough They were never there for us they were absent at least now we know where they are Author Lisa O’Donnell grew up in public housing to very young parents In an interview with Powell’s link at bottom she talks about the Thatcher era environment in which she was raised The primary inspiration for this story came from her days in Scotland but they were reinforced when she saw similar horrors after she crossed the pond and was living in East LA children put in charge of children wastrel parents childhood denied Across the fence lives an old man Lennie still mourning the loss of his soul mate of forty years That boy from whom he sought temporary comfort in the park was not as old as he claimed and now Lennie must endure vandals spray painting his property and enduring the shame of being on a sex offender list Actual parents do not come across very well in O’Donnell’s world Teacher sorts are a mixed lot and the state agents base their actions on formulae instead of reality O’Donnell paints a very bleak portrait of working class life in Glasgow The girls have been damaged by their upbringing Marnie helps a local drug dealer and relieves her stress with shagging Nelly insulates herself from the world by speaking in a ueenly manner She plays the violin beautifully but completely freaks out when encountering reminders of her precarious state Will the girls be able to keep their ruse going long enough for Marnie to reach 16 when the state will consider her an adult and allow her to legally take care of Nelly When the girls’ long absent grandfather pops into the picture looking to atone for a lifetime of being a bloody horror things get even complicated He may mean well right now but born again or not this is the guy who had a hand in creating one of those awful parents His sobriety is not to be presumed and there is a history of abandonment and violence to bootMarnie’s friends add to the pile of woe coping with their own missing family members and travails of one sort and anotherThere is enough sadness here to fill a cemetery but there is sweetness to come As dark as things appear a glimmer of light shines through Lennie is not only no sexual predator he is just a lonely man with a need to care and care he does slowly taking the girls in offering them the sort of loving home life they had never experienced from their biological parentsThere is plenty of tension in this book Will Lennie’s dog Bobby succeed in his relentless mission trying to dig up the buried remains This bit does seem rather clichéd Can Grandpa be trusted Will the drug dealer kill them trying to retrieve money owed him by a dead parent I know I know it sounds pretty dark And a lot of it certainly is but there is such warmth in this book such humanity such caring that you will be cheering by the end Can Lennie’s light shine these girls past the darkness And there is redemption from another uarter as Marnie provides the vehicle for a baddie to tuck away his stingerThese are teenagers and that means coming of age The sisters in O’Donnell’s tale begin at somewhat extreme ends and move towards each other over the course of the story Marnie world weary at fifteen with the help of people who actually care about her despite some self destructive behavior begins to find her inner softness her inner vulnerability her inner child The decidedly odd Nelly matures moving from being a very dependent child to someone with much appreciation for the world and her place in it There are multiple alternating narrators here Lennie talks to his dead love Joseph Marnie and Nelly narrate their sections as well and speak in distinct and appropriate voices O’Donnell is a screenwriter so has a keen ear for dialogue There are some rough edges here Nellly is described early on as a Harry Potter fanatic but nothing much is made of it after that mention The girls manage some significant work in places where it is surprising that their labors go undetected O’Donnell relies too much on coincidence in constructing her climax Would this or that person really have shown up where and when they do Nevertheless the beauty here is in how two damaged abandoned girls can be welcomed nurtured and allowed a real home and how a lonely soul can provide it constructing the family they all desperately need There is plenty of redemption to go around in this dark place I was reminded a bit of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road another tale that casts love and hope against an intensely bleak background the better to draw our attention to the light The Death of Bees may not be a perfect book but does celebrate the triumph of hope over despair and it is certain to generate a lot of buzzThe Trade Paperback version came out on October 22 2013LINKSThere are a few interviews I came across that add to one's appreciation of this bookUSA today from December 2012 NPR from January 5 2013Powell's

CHARACTERS The Death of Bees

REVIEW å The Death of Bees è ❮EPUB❯ ✺ The Death of Bees Author Lisa ODonnell – Johns-cycling-diary.co.uk A riveting brilliantly written debut novel The Death of Bees is a coming of age story in which two young sisters attempt to hold the world at bay after the mysterious death of their parentsMarnie and A riveting brilliantly wTh Epuband beautiful precision and told in alternating voices The Death of Bees is an enchanting grimly comic tale of lost souls who unable to answer for themselves can answer only for each othe. The Death of Bees by Lisa O’DonnellI received this book from the generous Karen who was giving away goodies from her BEA and ALA adventures THANK YOU I really enjoyed itThe title is obscure this novel is not about beesIt is a story about secrets Everyone has them Everyone is trying to hide them Some secrets are difficult to cover up than others The fact that a character is gay sells drugs is on a sex offender list picks up minors for prostitution is having an affair abuses his wife and daughter has a proclivity for young girls well these are small potatoes that characters are trying to hide here The biggest secret of all belongs to sisters Marnie and NellyPeople are asking uestions Where are your parents When are they returning The truancy officer wants to speak with them The school wants to meet with the parents The long lost grandfather appears and wants to know where his daughter is Why does your house smell so badly How could they go to Turkey if their passports are still hereIzzy and Gene are dead Marnie and Nelly have buried them in the backyard Izzy in the coal shed and Gene in a shallow grave covered with lavender The author paints Izzy and Gene as horrible parents people who are so self absorbed with a life of drugs that they can’t take care of themselves let alone parent their daughters How and why they died Well that would be a spoiler so I’m not getting into thatThis book was hard to put down At times really morbid and sad but also very very funny This is a dark comedy black humor at its best Gene’s flesh was literally falling off him and ripping like paper in some places Every time we moved him he made a noise like a fart except wet and by the time we’d reached the top of the stairs we’d had enough and couldn’t bear to hold him any longer At one point his arm escaped limp as a rope Nelly tried to cover it but she accidentally caught his hand and his fingernail came away and got stuck in the knit of her glove She boked then and couldn’t take it any Neither could I so we mutually agreed to push him off the top landing and let him roll to the bottom It was the worst thing we could have done He burst at the seams body fluid everywhere on the carpet on the walls a swamp of poison We had to get a wheelbarrow in the end stole it from the next door neighbour then we spooned Gene off the floor and took him out backWith an odd assortment of characters the story really holds your interest Marnie is almost sixteen and very feisty She barely attends school and still manages to maintain straight A’s Nelly only twelve has a habit of speaking proper English “She sounds like the ueen of England most of the time” Nelly is also a very talented violin player Elderly neighbor Lennie the pervert feels sorry for the girls and believes the parents have abandoned them These are the three main characters They grow to depend on each other and form a family of sorts in a sad kind of wayLenny is a good friend to the girls and has their best interest at heart One of the lessons of the story in my opinion is that you should not be judgmental People have reasons for doing what they do and hiding dark secrets Some secrets cannot hide for long though How the parents are discovered is hilariousIf you enjoy dark humor read this book Have a good laughThanks again Karen

Lisa ODonnell ´ 1 REVIEW

And Nelly left on their own in Glasgow's Hazlehurst housing estate attempt to avoid suspicion until Marnie can become a legal guardian for her younger sisterWritten with fierce sympathy The Dea. After I Capture the Castle which was darlings frankly a complete disahster what do I do but pick up another novel narrated mostly by a teenage girl However this one was a turtle of a different complexion Indeed it was rather wonderfulSo here we have a novel about miserable scummy British in this case Scottish underclass lives which can be viewed in many British movies such as Neds Broken A Way of Life Ladybird Ladybird Nil by Mouth and so forth I mostly enjoy this kind of movie in the same way I used to enjoy Leonard Cohen albums You end up vibrating mildly from utter horror The recipe for this novel was slice half a pound of The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan in which the kids bury their parents and live alone in the house; add in several pints of a wonderful Japanese movie called Nobody Knows where the abandoned kids manage to avoid detection by the authorities for months and grate over the top a generous helping of the Voice of Baba the foulmouthed hilarious best friend in Edna O’Brien’s Country Girls novels Then serve up the resulting dish in one to three page sections spoken by sisters Nelly and Marnie and neighbour Lennie somewhat like the interviews to camera in Modern Family Cameron Haley and Alex only with rotting corpses and dealing jellies instead of adopted Vietnamese babies and dude ranch holidays Since The Cement Garden Nobody Knows The Country Girls and Modern Family are four of my favourite things way ahead of schnitzel with noodles this novel was good to goAnd it went like a rocket Read in one day Great stuffHonesty bids me confess that I did cavil slightly at two aspects1 Is it credible that a 15 year old girl and a 12 year old girl could in the depths of a Scottish winter dig a grave for a man’s body in the garden Hmmm Wouldn’t the ground be rock hard Last time I tried to bury a man in my back garden in winter I gave up after three hours of fruitless hacking and confessed to the police2 The younger sister talks in an insanely poshaffectedantiuated manner which is entertaining but deeply silly Eg He was a very pleasant lad and strangely familiar to me not that I got a chance to uiz the fellow for he ran off and with the greatest of haste to fetch some milk which was rather a pointless feat given we hadn’t even been offered a cup of teaContrast that with sister Marnie describing a painful first meeting with her boyfriend’s rich liberal parents The tension in the room is well tasty unlike the green tea they’re serving in the tiny wee teapot with matching egg cups They’re dying for me to ask about it so they can babble about their halcyon days living in Tibet Five minutes in the room and these people are seriously giving me the dry bokeOh Marnie you crack me up