Originally published April 2013
Haunting. Creepy. Touching. Bittersweet. It’s all of the above for Lisa O’Donnell’s “The Death of Bees.”
This freshman effort marks O’Donnell’s turn from screenwriting into novels, which makes sense as it’s one of those books where you can’t help but picture the movie as you go. Me? I was kinda stuck on a “Winter’s Bone”-style Jennifer Lawrence as Marnie, the not-quite-addicted, mistaking-sex-for-love 15-year-old, just trying to keep the fact she buried her parents in the backyard a secret long enough that she can raise her 12-year-old sister, Nelly.
Yep—buried her parents. Creepy ‘ol Gene and Izzy. Rest assured, it really is OK. No one in Glasgow is going out of their way to find them, let alone notice they are missing. Except maybe of course their next door neighbor, the kinda-sorta child molester Lennie (played in my head by Jackie Earle Haley, than you very much “Little Children.”) … he worries about the girls. Are they OK? Are they eating? Readers will soon overlook that he may or may not be attracted to boys (he really isn’t) because he becomes such a good friend to the girls—part of working through his own grief over the loss of his longtime lover.
Readers will be drawn into Marnie, Nelly and Lennie’s worlds as they take turns narrating chapters, but this really is Marnie’s show, as she introduces you to her circle of friends, her icky-but-a-hero bosses Mick and Vlado, and her long absent, now present grandfather.
This is a perfect kind of book for the next book club meeting—intriguing storylines, sides you can choose, and elusive metaphors (bees do come into play, but just what does the title mean?) to decipher. Is Nelly autistic? Does Kirkland love Marnie? Is Vlado an atypical hero? So many questions, not enough time. Also? A quick read—you won’t want to it down once you start, so even if you do wait until the day your club meets, you can still get through it before the wine is uncorked.
What happens? Do Marnie and Nelly make it? Are Gene and Izzy discovered? And does Lennie’s crumble really taste that good? Read and find out.