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The Death of Beesby Lisa O'Donnell
This is a book surrounded by a lot of hype, but fortunately, it is also one that lives up to it. O'Donnell tells the story of two young sisters forced to grow up long before their actual childhood ends. Though each handles it differently, their alternating toughness and determined ignorance both paint a picture of bruised innocence and the irrevocable damage wreaked by circumstance. It is also the story of Lennie, an old man forced into exile and loneliness and damaged by circumstance in his own tragic way. Together these three characters tell a story of outsiders, all looking for a place to belong.
Each voice gives a unique perspective to the story, but only together can they tell it completely. The different narrative styles will keep you hooked as each short chapter bleeds into the next. O'Donnell masterfully blends voice and personality in her debut novel to create compelling and credible characters. She gives these outsiders a voice without exploiting them. She also tells a beautiful story filled with sorrow and humor and life that you won't want to miss.
Synopses & Reviews
"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.
"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." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"The Death of Bees is compelling stuff, engaging the emotions from the first page and quickly becoming almost impossible to put down." Herald (Scotland)
"As the action reaches a feverish climax...dark comedy is replaced by nerve-shredding tension...the reader is thoroughly caught up in the emotional trials and tribulations of two unlikely heroines....Warm without being cozy, explicit without being shocking, and emotive without being schmaltzy...a powerful coming-of-age tale." Scotsman
"This vibrantly-imagined novel, by turns hilarious and appalling, is hard to resist." Daily Mail(London)
"Mixing The Ladykillers with Irvine Welsh's The Acid House...O'Donnell adeptly balances caustic humour and compassion." Guardian
"The Death of Bees steadily draws you into its characters' emotional lives." Financial Times
"The most original and incredible piece of writing I've come across in years." Helen Fitzgerald, author of Dead Lovely
"The Death of Bees is completely addictive. A beautiful and darkly funny story of two sisters building a fantasy within a nightmare." Alison Espach, author of The Adults
"An unusual coming-of-age novel that features two sisters who survive years of abuse and neglect....The author's experience as a screenwriter is most definitely apparent, as the reader always hears the voices and can visualize the dramatic, sometimes appallingly grim scenes. Recommended." Kirkus Reviews
"O'Donnell's finely drawn characters display the full palette of human flaws and potential. Told in the alternating voices of Marnie, Nelly, and Lennie, this beautifully written page-turner will have readers fretting about what will become of the girls." Booklist (starred review)
About the Author
Lisa O'Donnell won the Orange Screenwriting Prize in 2000 for The Wedding Gift and, in the same year, was nominated for the Dennis Potter New Screenwriters Award. A native of Scotland, she is now a full-time writer and lives in Los Angeles with her two children. The Death of Bees is her first novel.
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