I was visiting my cousins home on my recent Mumbai trip and I happened to chat about books with his pre teen and teenage daughters. Thats when this book was presented to me for a read as they insisted I would love it. Hour of the Bees was truly a book that I loved reading and I hope my review convinces you to check it out too.
Title: Hour of the bees
Genre: YA / middle grade
Author: Lindsay Eagar
To 12 years old Carolina (prefers to be called carol), a stay on the ramshackle ranch in the middle of nowhere (New Mexico desert) is the worst punishment than the dread of facing junior high which is to start in two months.
The ranch is where her grandfather (whom she has never met to date) Sergio lives and breeds sheep. It’s also the home of her father Raul who is even more reluctant to return to it. Carol cannot figure out why he is so averse to visiting his home – a place where he grew up.
Truth of the matter is, Sergio is old and suffering from dementia. So the family has taken a collective decision to sell the ranch and shift Sergio to an old age facility where he can be better looked after.
But he has other ideas and when he catches Carol’s curiosity with his exotic tales about the bees who stole the water of an entire lake; it seems he now has an accomplice who shares his beliefs. He tells tales of a beautiful lake where grew the tree of life which had the most exotic blossoms. These blossoms captured the bees attention who flitted in abundance over them all year-long. It’s almost as if there existed a surreal world in her grandfather’s head but what if it was real?
“If you see any more bees chiquita, tell me. The bees will bring back the rain.”
“Don’t you mean the rain will bring back the bees?” I ask, hoping my correction won’t upset him. But he shakes his head emphatically. “No. The bees will bring back the rain. But first we need the bees.”
To top it all, bees seem to be following Carol. But in the middle of a hot desert where it hasn’t rained for decades, no flowers have bloomed; then where have the bees come from? And why is it that only Carol can see them?
Secrets start to literally tumble out of the cupboards and that’s when Carol realises there is more to this family than is visible.
You will need to read this book to know more.
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Lasting impression on me
Let me first up say that this is a book for 10-14 years old, primarily. But for someone who believes in fairy tales , this is a bewitching read. So yes I loved it and devoured it in one sitting.
The secret of the bees and her grandmother Rosa is so cleverly woven into the plot, that I needed to just keep turning the pages to know more. Rosa was a larger than life figure who couldnt get enough of travelling. Compared to this Sergio’s contentment to never stepping out of his comfort zone is a sharp contrast. Yet they were made for each other till the day they died.
It’s a very exotic fairy tale, told in a pretty beguiling fashion by an old man fallen prey to dementia. That’s what truly stands out for me in this plot. His failing memory and the allure of a magical world is presented in such a tempting way that one wants to believe it all.
It’s a story told from the perspective of a 12-year-old and that’s where it will appeal to the younger age group. The jitters of starting junior high, the agony of not knowing if one has a locker partner and the misery at reading about her friends summer vacation even as bees follow her around like crazy- all of this makes for a very resentful and anxious child.
Yet she holds on her own and is mature enough to see things from others perspective even though she has a lot of doubts and questions.
I also loved the way the heat of the desert has been vividly painted in the words. Enough to make one feel the stifling heat and understand what a desert might be like.
How is the desert already preheated and ready for baking at eight o’clock in the morning? The warmth seeps through the walls, dry and oppressive.
The author has been very liberal with her words, almost like a painter with a colour palette. Each word like the stroke of a brush, paints such beautiful imagery of the scenes set in the book. Sample this –
When moonlight hits the ridge, it glitters like a Christmas ornament. The bottom is inky purple, from a million years ago when the universe banged itself together
The concept of family roots and honouring one’s heritage will ring true for every reader. This is the stroke of genius in this book and draws one intellect deep into the book.
I will give this book 3 1/2 stars – almost bordering on 4 stars! I would recommend it a read for adults too as the concepts in it are very real. Plus the magical realism is not to be discounted either. A very pretty read if I may say so.
If magical realism gets your attention, then maybe you would like to read this beautiful tale of romance between a Golem and a Djinni set in New York in the days of industrial revolution.
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