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.
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.