THE SMALL BEES' HONEY by George Clark

THE SMALL BEES' HONEY

Stories
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 From a writer of mixed Xhosa and British descent, now a US resident, 14 polished if arid stories--some previously published- -of betrayal and alienation in love and war. Brought up in Rhodesia and South Africa, where his family passed for white, and formerly a soldier in the South African army fighting in Angola, Clark is as much preoccupied with race as with war. Here, these themes are addressed in the first person by seemingly unchanging characters who share a similar-sounding voice, despite locales that range from Angola and Cuba to Florida. A wounded spirit, Clark's narrator--or narrators?--lives on the margins of society, trapped in a past he can't escape. In the title story, the narrator is a married man whose white mother left his father when she found out he was colored and who is now in Angola serving in the army. He frames his story of a prisoner of mixed race with a Shona tale of the zebra-like Qagga who ate the small bee's dark honey and became dark. African legends also inform ``Seven Stories for All the Animals,'' in which an Angola war veteran later tries to find expiation--for having abandoned his platoon when under fire--by saving some homeless dogs in Florida. Two other notables with war themes: In ``Restoration Day,'' a veteran smuggling electronics into the Dominican Republic is reminded, by a woman he meets, of a photo he found on a dead enemy soldier; and in ``The Politics of Rain,'' a black butcher in Cuba who fought in Angola recalls a bloody encounter in the rain with bees. In ``Blackmilk,'' perhaps the most accomplished story with a racial subject, a man of mixed race recalls how an African woman prevented his father from murdering him at birth. Variations on powerful themes that unfortunately--delivered invariably in the same emotionally detached, coolly unchanging key--never really resonate.

Pub Date: Nov. 30th, 1997
ISBN: 1-877727-74-1
Page count: 196pp
Publisher: White Pine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1997