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The Death of Bees: A Novel Paperback – October 22, 2013
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*Starred Review* Marnie and Nelly have just buried their parents in the garden behind the Glasgow housing development where they live. Their father, Gene, was a drug addict attracted to young girls. Their mother, Izzy, was a boozer who paid little attention to the care and safety of her daughters. Gene died of dubious causes, and Izzy killed herself in grief. The girls are better off without their parents, and they know it. The challenge is to stay out of the way of the authorities for a year until Marnie turns 16 and will be legally able to take guardianship of her sister. Their nosy neighbor, Lennie, a homosexual whose partner has recently died, leaving him bereft and at loose ends, provides their only stability. But Lennie is curious about the whereabouts of their parents. As awful as he knows them to be, they can’t really have abandoned their daughters for an extended vacation in Turkey, can they? That’s what the girls tell him and anyone else who asks, until their secrets start to unravel. 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. --Vanessa Bush --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“In this first novel she pulls off the unusual pairing of grisly and touching.” (New York Times)
“O’Donnell walks a fine line, describing appalling events without ever allowing the novel to lose its warm heart....The Death of Bees is that rare thing: a family-values black comedy.” (Christian Science Monitor)
“Wild, witty and as funny as it is unsettling. The Death of Bees is really about the strength of sisters, the sparkle of imagination and how even the most motley of half lives can somehow coalesce into a shining whole.” (Houston Chronicle)
“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))
“[A] chiller told in three voices which will intrigue readers to the last pages…O’Donnell has done a masterful job of sketching her characters…The end is largely unexpected and highly dramatic, but at the same time is the perfect ending to this chilling tale…[a] brilliant book.” (Examiner (Northern California))
“With characters and voices the remind me of other strong debut novels (like Fates Will Find Their Way and Vaclav and Lena), this book will appeal to readers who like a strong voice, dark humor, and compelling story lines told in a literary yet accessible way.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Lisa O’Donnell, an award-winning screenwriter, grabs the reader from the get-go...” (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
“The author brilliantly paints the characters’ best traits through the eyes of the other characters, and their worst traits through their own voices.” (RT Book Reviews)
“O’Donnell’s wildly original debut examines the intricacies of betrayal and loyalty within one family and their effects on two vulnerable young girls…With a gritty but redemptive take on family and the price of secrets, O’Donnell’s debut will be well-received by fans of mainstream literature and Scottish noir mysteries alike.” (Shelf Awareness)
“The sisters and Lennie narrate alternating chapters, moving the story along at a fast clip....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.” (Publishers Weekly (boxed review))
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Into this mix add the odd drug dealer or two, some friends with their own dysfunctional families and the appearance of the girls' grandfather, whose arrival is increasingly unwelcome and complicating.
This story ranges from heartbreaking to darkly comic (when Lennie's dog Bobby keeps digging up parts of the girls parents...) but it is always compelling reading. This is a book to read, to discuss, to remember.