A moving memoir that tells the story of how helping her grandfather tend his beehives helped a girl survive a troubled childhood.
Former San Francisco Chronicle reporter May’s (co-author: I, Who Did Not Die, 2017) parents separated when she was 5. Her troubled, emotionally distant mother moved her and her younger brother back to the rural home shared by her own mother and her mother's second husband, who tended beehives all over Carmel Valley in California. After the author’s mother took to her room and refused to deal with the kids, the author spent most of her nonschool hours with “Grandpa,” driving around in his old truck to inspect hives, learning about bees, and eventually assisting him to harvest honey in an old bus he had rigged up just for this purpose. May balances the familiar story of an inadequate mother who veers between neglect and occasional abuse with a clear portrayal of her gratitude for the thoughtful, dependable man who taught her to reach out beyond her toxic nuclear family and make her way into the wider world, encouraging her to go to college and not let herself be defined by her mother's weaknesses. Her love of nature, too, and particularly of the unexpected intricacies of the ways bees behave, has provided her with a sense of peace and perspective. “Over time,” she writes, “the more I discovered about the inner world of honeybees, the more sense I was able to make of the outer world of people.” May also weaves into the narrative intriguing facts about the social lives and roles of honeybees, and she describes with affection the details of the process of producing honey and the role the beekeeper plays in the lives of bees. While her subject may be honeybees, they serve as a launching point for a tale of self-discovery and the natural world at large.
A fascinating and hopeful book of family, bees, and how “even when [children] are overwhelmed with despair, nature has special ways to keep them safe.”