A RECIPE FOR BEES by Gail Anderson-Dargatz


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While her special son-in-law undergoes brain surgery, a retired farmer and beekeeper recalls her life of hardship and denial in western Canada, with a few honeyed moments mixed in. A memorable follow-up to the equally atmospheric The Cure for Death by Lightning (1996). There isn’t much Augusta doesn’t know about bees—her mother was a beekeeper and she’s been one herself as well. But between those calming periods of hives and swarms, Augusta has had her fair share of ups and downs—which, during her beekeeping son-in-law Gabe’s seemingly endless operation, she has time to review. Teenage Augusta’s second sight had already shown her that her mother, Helen, would die in childbirth. After this, Augusta accepts the red-faced, awkward advances of an older neighbor, Karl, and moves as his bride to his father’s house and sheep farm. There she suffers her husband’s naãvetÇ and his father’s outright contempt until her headstrong nature rebels: Her first acts of defiance, weekly fly-fishing trips with her minister, give way to day jobs in the closest big town, then to a brazen, passionate affair with a big man she knows only as Joe. Gossip forces her to stop what she’d started, but Augusta’s return to the sheep farm is temporary. At her father’s death, which follows the birth of her daughter, Joy, she inherits the family place and settles there with Karl; long, hardscrabble years later, with Joy herself a headstrong teenager, Augusta again revolts and bolts, although this time returns home to discover solace, as her mother did, in the company of bees. With their help she finally finds a place in her wild heart for her dull yet adoring husband, and the renewed will to keep her precious secret. Too many time shifts between Augusta old and young, perhaps, but nonetheless there’s a wonderful vitality to her, and to the rich, buzzing lore she inherits and makes her own.

Pub Date: Jan. 12th, 2000
ISBN: 0-609-60451-1
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Harmony
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1999


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