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How We Assembled Indiespensable #37

We love the Scots. Kate Atkinson, Iain Banks, Alasdair Gray... The country regularly produces writers with a penchant for black humor and a delicious turn of phrase. So we weren't entirely surprised when we were drawn into Lisa O'Donnell's debut novel from its arresting first sentences. The Death of Bees is the macabre — and hilarious — coming-of-age story of two young sisters, Marnie and Nelly, who we first encounter as they're burying their parents in the backyard. The novel contains a sort of murder-mystery, but at heart it's an exploration of family and community — those we're born with and those we choose to create. Alison Espach, author of The Adults, raves, "The Death of Bees is completely addictive. A beautiful and darkly funny story of two sisters building a fantasy within a nightmare." We agree, and we're proud to have chosen The Death of Bees as our Indiespensable Volume #37.

We're also including a very early (so early that the publisher hasn't decided on the final book cover yet!) advance reader copy of The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy, the author of Everything Beautiful Began After and The Secret Lives of People in Love. This gorgeous novel illuminates the invisible connections between seemingly disparate people. Andre Dubus III, a former Indiespensable author, writes, "If F. Scott Fitzgerald and Marguerite Duras had had a son, he would be Simon Van Booy; this is a truly special writer who does things with abstract language that are so evocative and original your breath literally catches in your chest."

Though it's true that The Death of Bees isn't so much about actual bees — it's more of a metaphor — we thought, hey, who doesn't like bees? Or beestuffs? So we've included some beeswax lip balm from Worker B, creator of all things handcrafted and bee-related, and a 12-ounce jar of pure, golden, raw honey from the Wessels Family farm in Forest Grove, Oregon. Your particular jar of honey was made from clover pollen and originates in the fields surrounding Oregon City — just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Indiespensable headquarters.

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A collective of high muckamucks, the Panjandrums largely spend their time in competitive Bananagram duels and negotiations regarding Pie Friday — not to mention painstakingly designing each installment of Powell's subscription club, Indiespensable, with the help of independent publishers and local merchants. From time to time, they find it entertaining to give you a look at the hows and whys behind the what. But, if you're yearning for more, send questions, suggestions, and random anecdotes to indiespensable@powells.com. (They especially like stories about pets, babies, and pie fillings.)

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