Monday, May 19, 2014
The Death of Bees
Three characters tell the story: Marnie, the fifteen-year-old forced to grow up too fast because of her neglectful, drunk, drug riddled parents. Nelly, Marnie's twelve-year-old sister, is eccentric and adds a different perspective to the storyline. And Lennie, the girls' homosexual neighbor, who plays a bigger role in the girls' lives than anyone else when he begins taking care of them.
The story begins with a couple captivating lines from Marnie: 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. If that doesn't wake you up, I don't know what will.
The story unravels from there with information about the parents' death and the girls' fear of children's services. Their neighbor Lennie eventually takes them in and for the first time the girls know what it's like to have true family and love. This is very clear to the reader because of the insights gained about the girls' past as the story goes along.
This is where I give a heads up. If you don't like foul language and talk of sex and drugs (although none of it is detailed or gratuitous), then this book might bother you. When I started reading the book, I had no clue what to expect...I simply picked it up because of the amazing first lines! It got me to thinking about people's reactions to what they consider "unsavory" in a book. In this case, honestly, anyone who has lived in or around environments of neglect, abuse, drug use, alcoholics, etc. can tell you that people don't use words like "crap" and " stinking" in their day to day dialogue. They don't have appropriate, loving contact with most people surrounding them. They are often used and abused, doing what needs done to survive. To have experienced such horror and find an author watering it down to something easy to swallow would be...well, hard to swallow, to say the least. Life can be horrific and, while we don't celebrate the horror, we do have to realize it and contend with it. If you'd like to read and discuss further on the topic of "clean" vs "unclean" reading, stop by this post at The Steadfast Reader. She extends the conversation beyond my mention of the ideas of language and violence in reading to include other reasons people won't read certain things.
The Death of Bees is a gripping story of survival, making a family, and finding love. Does the use of foul language and uncomfortable subjects deter you from reading a book? Or color your opinion of it?