Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Death of Bees

The Death of Bees
by Lisa O'Donnell
2012 Harper
Rating 5/5

     "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."
     This is the way "The Death of Bees" starts, and Lisa O'Donnell manages to carry on that intensity to the very last page. Marnie and her 11 year old sister Nelly are on their own after hiding their parent's bodies after their mysterious deaths. Set in a dark, dirty, and almost always wet part of Glasgow, this story is told in the alternating voices of Marnie, Nelly, and Lennie, the lonely old gay man who lives next door. The sisters hide the bodies to avoid being taken away and separated by the welfare system. Their parents were drug addicts that did not provide for them and often left them alone for days at a time. Both girls are very bright - Marnie gets straight As and Nelly is a prodigy on the violin, but both are damaged. Marnie drinks vodka, sells drug, and has sex with an older man. Nelly wakes up screaming and has no friends at school. But they work hard to protect each other.
     Lennie notices that the parents aren't around anymore and thinks that the sisters have been abandoned. He tries to offer them help and they form a very strange family unit. This book is very dark and sometimes hard to read, but I cared so much for these characters. "The Death of Bees" is definitely my first Best of 2013 book and I can't wait to see what Lisa O'Donnell does next.