The Death of Bees

Lisa O'Donnell, Author
Lisa O’Donnell. Harper, $25.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-06-220984-9
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-434-02147-5
Ebook - 336 pages - 978-0-06-220986-3
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-09-955842-2
Open Ebook - 304 pages - 978-1-4464-9284-0
Paperback - 310 pages - 978-0-06-220985-6
Show other formats
FORMATS
When 15-year-old Marnie Doyle finds her father’s body on the sofa of their seedy Glasgow home and her mother hanging in the garden shed, she and her younger sister, Nelly, decide to bury them both in the back garden, in British screenwriter O’Donnell’s debut novel. Fearing that social services will put them into foster care, the girls undertake a desperate charade; they claim that Gene and Isabel are off on a trip. Notorious druggies and neglectful parents, at first their purported abandonment seems plausible. That’s what Lennie, the lonely gay man next door, believes; though an indecency arrest in the neighborhood park has branded him a “pervert,” the girls accept his invitation to come under his wing, with food, shelter, and companionship. But his kindness can’t erase the damage that’s already been done: Nelly, a violin prodigy who was molested by her father, has nightmares and screaming fits. Though she gets straight As in school, Marnie starts selling drugs, drinking vodka daily, and having sex with a married man. The situation grows even darker when their sinister maternal grandfather, Robert MacDonald, insists on taking them in, which Lennie doesn’t like. But his battle with Gramps becomes complicated when Lennie is diagnosed with—but doesn’t disclose—a fatal illness. The sisters and Lennie narrate alternating chapters, moving the story along at a fast clip, but the author’s decision to give precocious Nelly a prissy vocabulary and a stilted, poetic delivery (“A white syringe. The coarsest cotton. It’s abominable”) makes her a less believable character, especially as Marnie’s voice is rife with expletives and vulgar slang. 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. Agent: Alex Christofi, Corville and Walsh, U.K. (Feb.)
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!
MORE BOOKS YOU'D LIKE
X