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The Death of Bees
by Lisa O'Donnell

Overview -

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 her little sister, Nelly, are on their own now. Only they know what happened to their parents, Izzy and Gene, and they aren't telling.  Read more...


 
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More About The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell
 
 
 
Overview

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 her little sister, Nelly, are on their own now. Only they know what happened to their parents, Izzy and Gene, and they aren't telling. While life in Glasgow's Maryhill housing estate isn't grand, the girls do have each other. Besides, it's only a year until Marnie will be considered an adult and can legally take care of them both.

As the New Year comes and goes, Lennie, the old man next door, realizes that his young neighbors are alone and need his help. Or does he need theirs? Lennie takes them in--feeds them, clothes them, protects them--and something like a family forms. But soon enough, the sisters' friends, their teachers, and the authorities start asking tougher questions. As one lie leads to another, dark secrets about the girls' family surface, creating complications that threaten to tear them apart.

Written with fierce sympathy and beautiful precision, told in alternating voices, The Death of Bees is an enchanting, grimly comic tale of three lost souls who, unable to answer for themselves, can answer only for one another.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780062209849
  • ISBN-10: 0062209841
  • Publisher: Harpercollins
  • Publish Date: January 2013
  • Page Count: 311


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Literary
Books > Fiction > Coming of Age
Books > Fiction > Family Life

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2012-10-22
  • Reviewer: Staff

When 15-year-old Marnie Doyle finds her father’s body on the sofa of their seedy Glasgow home and her mother hanging in the garden shed, she and her younger sister, Nelly, decide to bury them both in the back garden, in British screenwriter O’Donnell’s debut novel. Fearing that social services will put them into foster care, the girls undertake a desperate charade; they claim that Gene and Isabel are off on a trip. Notorious druggies and neglectful parents, at first their purported abandonment seems plausible. That’s what Lennie, the lonely gay man next door, believes; though an indecency arrest in the neighborhood park has branded him a “pervert,” the girls accept his invitation to come under his wing, with food, shelter, and companionship. But his kindness can’t erase the damage that’s already been done: Nelly, a violin prodigy who was molested by her father, has nightmares and screaming fits. Though she gets straight As in school, Marnie starts selling drugs, drinking vodka daily, and having sex with a married man. The situation grows even darker when their sinister maternal grandfather, Robert MacDonald, insists on taking them in, which Lennie doesn’t like. But his battle with Gramps becomes complicated when Lennie is diagnosed with—but doesn’t disclose—a fatal illness. The sisters and Lennie narrate alternating chapters, moving the story along at a fast clip, but the author’s decision to give precocious Nelly a prissy vocabulary and a stilted, poetic delivery (“A white syringe. The coarsest cotton. It’s abominable”) makes her a less believable character, especially as Marnie’s voice is rife with expletives and vulgar slang. The difference between the sisters in terms of personality and maturity puts them at odds despite their shared fear of discovery. But their resilience suggests hope for their blighted lives. Agent: Alex Christofi, Corville and Walsh, U.K. (Feb.)

 
BookPage Reviews

Little girls forge their own future

No matter how you and your family choose to celebrate the holidays, chances are it doesn’t involve burying your parents in the backyard on Christmas Eve. Alas, the same cannot be said for the sibling protagonists in Lisa O’Donnell’s first novel, The Death of Bees.

Setting the tone for what is to come, the book opens with 15-year-old Marnie telling readers that not only is it Christmas Eve, but it is also her birthday, and the parents that she and her sister have just buried in their backyard were anything but beloved.

O'Donnell is a brazen new voice in the literary world.

Rest assured, this is no saccharine, gentle story of a loving family torn asunder. As far as Marnie is concerned, her parents’ deaths are just one more mess they have left for her to clean up, just one more burden far too heavy for her and 12-year-old Nelly to have to carry. Yet carry it they must, leaving readers to root for these two newly minted orphans as they attempt to outwit child protective services, settle debts with their father’s drug dealer—who is owed money they don’t have—and keep their lonely next-door neighbor from discovering the truth about what his dog keeps trying to dig up in their back garden. Through it all, the girls navigate the more traditional hardships of adolescence with pluck and determination, proving that though they may be damaged, they can never be fully broken as long as they have each other.

From its first line to its last, The Death of Bees is unapologetically candid and heralds a brazen new voice in the literary world. O’Donnell, a Scot who now lives in L.A., is also  an award-winning screenwriter. Her prior career experience shows in her novel: She imbues Marnie and Nelly with voices that are honest and authentic, and the narrative flows with the exact right current to hook readers early and then slowly reel them in.

This is a dark and mordant novel, yet despite its fighting words, a tender heart beats deep at its center. Although undeniably bleak at times, Marnie and Nelly’s story is not devoid of hope and has much needed punches of humor throughout. The result is a riveting and rewarding read.

 
BAM Customer Reviews

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