Telling the Bees

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Telling the Bees
by Peggy Hesketh

Albert, an elderly beekeeper, has led an incredibly sheltered life. He grew up in a loving family, nothing like that of his neighbor Claire’s. Their wildly divergent lives and personalities somehow find a parallel path in life and they spend decades living next door to one another, raising bees and selling honey. When Claire and her sister Hilda are unexpectedly murdered Albert is forced to dredge up the past and reevaluate their personal history, which is intertwined with their shared love of bees.

Despite the murder this is most definitely not a murder mystery. It is a quiet reflection on the choices we make and the lives we choose. It’s a look at regret and heartache that can last a lifetime. It’s about the irrevocable misunderstandings that can drive a wedge between people.

Each chapter is headed by a fact about bee colonies and hives. These tidbits were woven into the context of the story as well. For example…

“The Langstroth Hive: Patented in 1851 by Reverend Lorenzo Langstroth, it has become the standard in modern hive design. Incorporating the concept of bee space, this boxlike, stackable structure contains removable frames to which bees attach their wax honeycombs.”

For me the information about bee hives was fascinating. I adored learning more about bees and the delicate balance of their society. The book balances an encyclopedic knowledge of bees with a powerful story, never letting one overwhelm the other.

I’ve always been enthralled by bees and even had the chance to interview an octogenarian beekeeper for a feature story when I was a reporter. I put on the full bee suit and got to help him take apart a hive and see the queen bee. I couldn’t help but picture him as Albert while reading this book. Bees are incredible creatures and one day I hope I can start my own hive.

There are elements of the storytelling that are frustrating to the reader in the same way they must've been frustrating to the detective trying to solve the murders. Every time he meets Albert and tries to get a straight answer out of him he instead gets random facts about bees and a meandering story from the past. Albert gets distracted in his old age and often doesn't fully explain who someone is or how they are connected. It all comes full circle by the end though, with a conclusion that is satisfying without tying things up too neatly.

BOTTOM LINE: It’s a bittersweet novel with a quiet wisdom. I was surprised by how quickly it hooked me and how much I enjoyed it.

“Quick answers are not always the same as the right ones. I find that the truth I seek is most apparent to me when I take the time to listen.”

“The pain we inflict upon others continues to do damage long after we have taken our leave. It matters not whether the hurt s intended or not, the pain is just as sharp, or perhaps even sharper, for all its grave indifference.”

**This review copy was provided by Putnam Books.

*Image from here


Sandy Nawrot said...

I am fascinated with bees too! When we went to California last Christmas, we stayed at a resort that had a bee experience but we weren't there on the right day (I was SO disappointed). This sounds like a wonderful book.

The Relentless Reader said...

This sounds really good. I don't think I've heard of it before so thanks for bringing it to my attention. I enjoy wise and quiet reads and this is going on my wish list :)

Nikki Steele @ said...

This sounds so absolutely lovely. I was literally looking up bee hive ordinances in Arizona earlier this week, because I want a hive so badly. Love that this is paired with a quiet story of loss.

Great review -- thanks!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Sandy - I would love to do something like that!

Jennifer - This one sounds like it would be a good fit then!

Nikki - You want a bee hive too?!? What is it about bees that is so fascinating?

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

This one was different and was happy I tried it as well. Hope you've been doing well Melissa.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Diane - I remember seeing your review! It was a good reminder to me that I needed to get to it quickly!