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THE DEATH OF BEES by Lisa O'Donnell


by Lisa O'Donnell

Pub Date: Feb. 5th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-06-220984-9
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

An unusual coming-of-age novel that features two sisters who survive years of abuse and neglect.

The story is set in Scotland, written with a distinct Scottish flavor, in very brief chapters told from the alternating points of view of the two girls and a neighbor who takes them in and ultimately covers for them when their dark secret is uncovered. The story starts when the older sister discovers both of her parents dead, her father suffocated in his bed and her mother hanging in an outdoor shed. She and her younger sister decide to bury their parents in the garden rather than risk a return to the foster care which they had previously endured and disliked. To anyone who asks, including a drug dealer to whom their father owed money, they say their parents are in Turkey, but eventually the drug dealer finds the passports the parents would have needed to travel abroad. The neighbor, who has his own secrets and heartache, looks after them, feeds them and takes them into his home. Meanwhile, the dead mother’s father, who had abandoned her not once but twice, comes looking for her to make amends since he got himself sober and discovered God. He does not, however, treat his granddaughters in a very loving way. In the midst of these developments, the neighbor’s dog discovers the bones in the garden, and the neighbor, in an effort to protect the girls he has come to love and cherish as his own children, moves the bones to his own garden and eventually claims to have murdered the pair. While dealing with this strange and surreal experience, the two girls also go through the more mundane trials of female adolescence—peer pressures at school, menstruation and the confusions that accompany awakening sexuality.

The author’s experience as a screenwriter is most definitely apparent, as the reader always hears the voices and can visualize the dramatic, sometimes appallingly grim scenes. Recommended for readers who love film.