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The Death of Bees


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Average customer rating based on 5 comments:

McGuffy Ann, March 13, 2013 (view all comments by McGuffy Ann)
This is quite a unique coming of age novel. The story tells of two sisters, Marnie and younger sister Nelly, living in a Glasgow, Scotland housing project.

Finding their selfish, irresponsible parents Izzy and Gene, dead, the girls decide to hide the fact by burying them in the backyard. Their hope is to wait for fifteen year old Marnie to turn sixteen so can legally care for Nelly. Marnie had been the responsible one in the family since she was a toddler, so it seems the natural thing for them to do.

Marnie does have issues, however. Growing up tough, neglected, and exposed to more than a rough existence, she has developed many problems of her own. While she has always been tough, she now finds herself vulnerable. Younger Nelly is dealing with autism but is actually now maturing.

Lonely neighbor Lennie finds the girls alone and decides to try to help them. Having many of his own life burdens and regrets, he believes by reaching out to help the girls that perhaps he can right some wrongs. An unusual “family” evolves.

The novel is a very interesting, fast paced novel. It is gritty and sometimes a bit difficult in its subject matter, but well written and believable. Parents can put their offspring in difficult situations, forcing them to grow up before their time. Sometimes “families” form out of pain and need. Sometimes we redeem ourselves in unexpected ways.
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AppleMama, March 1, 2013 (view all comments by AppleMama)
Hmmm... Is Nelly not Marnie's alternate personality? "Born" when Marnie was 3 years old, due to the substantial trauma this child had suffered? No one ever sees Nelly coming, and newcomers are always caught off guard when she makes appearances... I read the whole novel thinking of her in this way, and it totally makes sense.

"When Nelly's reading, nothing exists, not even me, I like not existing, even for an hour."

"Kimbo asked me if Nelly was a schizophrenic, I said she isn't, because she's not. She doesn't hear voices or anything, she's just not like other people and can't fake it, which is more than can be said about me. I've been faking it my whole life."

"I am glad the girls have one another, it's a lonely journey otherwise and so I leave them with their secrets and the things they share. It bonds them and keeps them strong. It is important to stay strong, it ties you to life and forces you to walk on..."

"He doesn't say anything for a minute, like everyone else who meets Nelly for the first time, he's stunned and silent. Absorbing, not comprehending."

"He is obviously interested in the girls, though he certainly wasn't prepared for Nelly..."

"The trip up was nice, we had a cool car and I got to drown out Nelly with my headphones, although she didn't have too much to say for herself for a change."

"I never even noticed her, but then that's how Nelly is. Quiet on her feet. Floating."

This psychological aspect made the story interesting, without it I would consider it mediocre at best.
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AthenasMuse, January 7, 2013 (view all comments by AthenasMuse)
Superfabulous book! Definitely dark comedic undertones amidst the many rich layers of this intriguing story. Complex and compelling plot, truly interesting, fascinating character interaction and satisfying ending that only leaves you wanting for more from this talented author! ★★★★★
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Lilian Cheng, January 2, 2013 (view all comments by Lilian Cheng)
Well, this was a pleasant surprise. Despite it's twisted, morbid plotline of two sisters burying their parents in their backyard (and a dog that has an uncanny knack of digging up body parts from flowerbeds,) The Death of Bees filled me up with warmth and made me smile. Built with a unique cast of memorable characters, with their own fears and quirks, O' Donnell crafts a brilliant tale about family ties. Sometimes real families aren't formed by blood ties. Perhaps Marnie and Nelly are by far not the most innocent girls, but I still found myself cheering them on every one of those three hundred pages.

I love multiple perspectives, and O'Donnell does it exceptionally well. We unravel the story with Marnie and Nelly (the two sisters) and Lennie (their 70 year old gay, misunderstood "sex offender" neighbor.) What usually happens in books with multiple perspectives is that the voices blend together and don't sound like two different people. Perhaps because each character is so distinct from each other that there was never a problem differentiating between them. Marnie has a dark, rebellious edge, while Nelly autistic eloquence sounds like the Queen of England (with a bit of swearing). Nelly reminds me of Becky of Glee's inner voice.

Very well-paced book. I admit that fifty pages in I had no idea where the story was headed. I was worried that this would be one of those books that hooked you in with a intriguing premise, then left you stranded with a messy story that went nowhere. Thankfully, that didn't happen and the story picked up as the story progressed. This is not also one of those books that felt like it should've ended fifty pages ago.

Suspending Disbelief:
There are moments where you just have to believe. This was one of my major worries going into this book. I just didn't know how O' Donnell could convinced me that two minors would be able to live without their parents. Where's the landlord when rent can't be paid? What about taxes? What about pesky census people? Can their two parents have been so isolated from friends and family that nobody is suspicious when they disappear? There were quite a few parts that I felt were just TOO convenient. But I was still grateful that it happened.

Bits of Humor:
Even though the novel touches upon many heavy-handed topics such as parental neglect and drug abuse, there were also bits of humor that not only made me smile, but made me like the characters. Marnie has a wicked sense of humor. And there's also a wife that barges into the house to pick a fight, run aways, but forgets her baby in the house.

Overall, a very enjoyable book that I wasn't expect to like this much. It explores family ties, while not being afraid to delve into more heavy-handed topics such as parental abuse and neglect. It's a book I wholeheartedly recommend to people not afraid of a book with attitude, but will fill you up with warmth.
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Silvers Reviews, January 1, 2013 (view all comments by Silvers Reviews)
If you ever wondered what a dysfunctional family was, read THE DEATH OF BEES, and you will no longer be wondering.

Marnie and Nelly lived with their parents who were not married and who never paid attention to them. They were too busy being on drugs and selling drugs. The girls had to take care of themselves and were always left alone. Then one day they were truly alone...their parents went missing and never returned. The girls knew what happened to them, but they couldn't tell anyone. Their neighbor Lennie saw their parents had been gone for a long time and instinctively knew they wouldn't return so he stepped in to help. Lennie had issues of his own.

The book was somewhat disconnected and shared all the awful things that normally occur in a dysfunctional family. The author portrays scenes very vividly and leaves nothing to the imagination. She lets every detail of the family's life out in the open for all to see and does it cleverly by having each chapter's contents be the voice of one of the characters. I believe she was making the reader aware of how often this type of life happens more than we know and what many children live with on a daily basis. She was also showing that the cycle continues from generation to generation.

Despite the author's attempt of trying to enlighten what we as a civil society do not want to face, this book definitely would not be good for young adults. There is a lot of vulgarity, sexual situations, drug situations, tension between parent and child, and even murder. On a positive note, it does touch on strong friendships. If this book were being rated as a movie, I would give it an R rating.

It did get a little more interesting as the book continued, and there were some funny parts. You can't help laughing at the absurdity and utter unbelievability of some of the circumstances, but the book's disconnection with following the plot, the vulgarity, and the unpleasant, but informative topic makes me give the book a 3/5.

This book was given to me free of charge without compensation in exchange for an honest review.
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Product Details

O'Donnell, Lisa
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Publication Date:
5 x 5.5 x 1.09 in 22.8 oz

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Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
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Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Family Life

The Death of Bees Used Hardcover
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Product details 320 pages Harper - English 9780062209849 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

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.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "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.
"Review" by , "The Death of Bees is compelling stuff, engaging the emotions from the first page and quickly becoming almost impossible to put down."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "This vibrantly-imagined novel, by turns hilarious and appalling, is hard to resist."
"Review" by , "Mixing The Ladykillers with Irvine Welsh's The Acid House...O'Donnell adeptly balances caustic humour and compassion."
"Review" by , "The Death of Bees steadily draws you into its characters' emotional lives."
"Review" by , "The most original and incredible piece of writing I've come across in years."
"Review" by , "The Death of Bees is completely addictive. A beautiful and darkly funny story of two sisters building a fantasy within a nightmare."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
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