Of Bees and Mist

( 185 )

Overview

• An escapist’s delight: Readers of magical-realist fiction will instantly be captivated by this fairy tale that is richly evocative of the lives of women and their complex relationships. Of Bees and Mist takes place in a nameless town during a timeless era, where spirits and spells, witchcraft and demons, ghosts and clairvoyance—both real and imagined—are an everyday reality.

• Distinctive, outstanding women’s fiction: Part female-driven family saga, part love story, Of Bees ...

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Of Bees and Mist: A Novel

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Overview

• An escapist’s delight: Readers of magical-realist fiction will instantly be captivated by this fairy tale that is richly evocative of the lives of women and their complex relationships. Of Bees and Mist takes place in a nameless town during a timeless era, where spirits and spells, witchcraft and demons, ghosts and clairvoyance—both real and imagined—are an everyday reality.

• Distinctive, outstanding women’s fiction: Part female-driven family saga, part love story, Of Bees and Mist centers on Meridia, who tries to escape her alienating childhood and mysterious parents by running away at sixteen to marry a tenderhearted young man, whose family is harboring secrets of their own. Setiawan takes readers through a tumultuous thirty-year journey of hope and heartbreak as Meridia’s capacity for love, courage, and sanity is pushed to the brink. Filled with fantasy and melodrama, Of Bees and Mist is an epic story of family and friendship, of secrets and magic—a story that is altogether touching, honest, and entirely memorable.

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  • Of Bees and Mist
    Of Bees and Mist  

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Of Bees and Mist is sheer enchantment. Erick Setiawan has created a magical world just outside of our own, made all the more human and compelling by its rich and astonishing strangeness." - Keith Donohue, author of The Stolen Child and Angels of Destruction

"A beautifully crafted adult fairy tale of love, loss and loyalty that is at once witty, magical, and moving. Of Bees and Mist is a stunningly accomplished first novel." - John Connolly, author of The Book of Lost Things and The Lovers

"Of Bees and Mist is set in a secretive and mythical landscape where readers will yearn to be. A marvel of a novel." - Da Chen, author of Colors of the Mountain and Brothers

“A fascinating domestic drama.”
—Carolyn See, The Washington Post

“A story that pulses with life.”
—The San Francisco Chronicle

“A looping joy to read.”
—Denver Post

Publishers Weekly
Reality has been tipped askew in Setiawan supernatural story of mothers and daughters, husbands and wives. Me-ridia grows up in a home where the magic and hostility are so thick, mist wraps envelops the house and her bitter relationship with her in-laws becomes a battle against swarming bees that nettle the skin and heart. Marguerite Gavin's riveting performance brings light and clarity to Setiawan's provocative fantasy. Particularly creative and af-fecting are her renderings of the bees and Meridia's empathetic voice. Her characterizations are on target, and her tone is tone is as intense as the unfolding drama, and her characterizations are on target. A Simon & Schuster hardcover (Reviews, Jun.1).
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal
This is the story of the worst mother-in-law ever. A young woman from a bizarrely unhappy home finally thinks she will find freedom in marriage to the young man of her dreams, but it turns out that his family is even more bizarrely unhappy, and his mother is the most vicious harpy imaginable. Over the years, the two women engage in an epic battle over everything from food to family and nearly destroy all they hold dear in the process. All of this happens in an unnamed magical land (apparently inspired by the author's native Indonesia), where the bees are spies and the mist is sentient. Despite the feeling of "once upon a time," the characters have things like kitchen appliances and photographs, but women are still treated (and behave) like children. The story is almost operatic in scope—the only motivations are jealousy, greed, and thwarted love, and everyone has the emotional maturity of a 13-year-old. VERDICT This debut reads like a fairy tale for adults but somehow lacks the humanity of similar magical realist tales (e.g., Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate and Isabelle Allende's The House of the Spirits). Optional.—Jenne Bergstrom, San Diego Cty. Lib.
Kirkus Reviews
Magical spells, strange demons and one utterly impossible mother-in-law drive the plot of a moody fairy tale set in no particular time and place. Meridia, the heroine of this debut novel, grows up in a large and curious home: Its staircase has a habit of lengthening every so often, and powerful mists are capable of pulling unwanted visitors away from the front door. But beneath this strangeness lies some very common familial dysfunction. Gabriel and Ravenna, Meridia's parents, are barely on speaking terms, and rumors abound that Gabriel has taken a mistress. Understandably, Meridia grows up eager to escape. As a teenager she falls for Daniel, whose mother, Eva, busies herself tartly abusing nearly everyone she meets. When her ire is especially stoked, usually toward Meridia, Eva can call on a swarm of bees to punctuate her passive-aggressive fits of pique. This book is largely the story of a decades-long war between Eva and Meridia, and on occasion the magical setting effectively emphasizes how corrosive the relationship is. But the uncanny touches are haphazardly deployed, and the book is largely a flat narrative about in-laws who don't get along. Squabble follows squabble as Meridia attempts to escape Eva's clutches; Eva strikes back; and Daniel behaves as a milquetoast, uncertain of the truth of either woman's accusations. Those bees occasionally serve as a useful symbol of the wages of self-doubt-they tend to swarm in whenever Meridia questions Eva's judgment-but the mists and ghosts that appear seem to serve little purpose other than to modestly enliven a simplistic, repetitious story that makes Meridia's virtue nearly as tedious as Eva's viciousness. Setiawan unconvincingly inflatesa tiny narrative into a supernatural epic. Agent: Alex Glass/Trident Media Group
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416596257
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 7/6/2010
  • Pages: 404
  • Sales rank: 694,268
  • Product dimensions: 8.46 (w) x 5.66 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Erick Setiawan

Erick Setiawan was born in Jakarta, Indonesia, to Chinese parents and moved to the United States in 1991. He is a graduate of Stanford University and currently lives in San Francisco.

Biography

Erick Setiawan was born in 1975 in Jakarta, Indonesia, to Chinese parents. A quiet, shy child, he was thankfully raised in a family of gifted storytellers, who taught him that while life might have an endless supply of conflict, not all of it translates into a good story. Due to the anti-Chinese sentiment prevalent in Indonesia, his childhood was often fraught with tension, which prompted him to take comfort in books and in the world of his imagination. To traumatize him further, his parents sent him to Catholic schools, where he learned from an early age to feel guilty about everything and that a grown man in a sash and a swishing robe with a ruler in his hand was in no way maternal.

At age sixteen, he left his family and moved to the United States. He knew three people and barely spoke English, yet was somehow convinced that he could compete with the top students to get into the best colleges. His resolution/delusion pushed him to work hard. The following year, his first choice, Harvard, rejected him, but fortunately Stanford had a lower standard. To this day, he believes that they admitted him by mistake.

In college, he wanted to study English, but his shyness and insecurity about his adopted language prevented him from enrolling in classes that required him to speak. Instead, he chose to major in Psychology and Computer Science, going as far as getting a Master's in the latter. Bafflingly enough, studying about mental disorders and complex algorithms only increased his hunger for literature. Once too often, he shuffled aside his term papers and problem sets to lose himself in a novel.

After graduation, he began his tenure as a software engineer in San Francisco. By the end of the first year, he knew that his heart was not in it. Confronted with the risk of being a corporate burnout at twenty-six, he turned to writing in his spare time. To the exasperation of his bosses, he began coming to work late and taking longer and longer lunch breaks in order to write. Several years, two failed novels, and countless short stories later, he decided to quit his job to finish writing Of Bees and Mist. At the time, he had no book deal and knew no one in publishing, but he pursued his passion with the same stubborn resolution/delusion that had motivated him earlier. He sold Of Bees and Mist four years after he started it.

Good To Know

Some interesting outtakes from our interview with Erick Setiawan:

"I sing Richard Marx at karaoke. Still."

"Before I devoted all my waking hours to finishing Of Bees and Mist, I was a software engineer. In order to write, I would come to work late and leave early, not counting the ungodly long lunch hours I pilfered from my bosses. Yet instead of firing me, they kept promoting me and giving me raises! I remain boggled to this day."

"When I lived in Indonesia, I fought with my parents for two years before they finally let me go to America at age sixteen. For reasons best known to themselves, many people tried their hardest to stop my parents. There was one woman who supposedly graduated from Harvard and who took it upon herself to scare my mother to death. She said that the streets of the U.S.A. were teeming with drug dealers, gangsters, and serial killers—all of which could be easily confirmed by a viewing of Taxi Driver and The Silence of the Lambs. But the worst part of it, she said, were American women. 'They'll weave their many webs around your son and seduce him,' she told my mother. 'Once they have him trapped, they'll suck him dry and leave him broken and overdosed on the street.' I don't know which Harvard she went to, but it sure was a good thing that I didn't listen to her!"

"I consider it both a lifelong pleasure and a non-negotiable necessity to be a reader. I don't understand people who don't—or won't—read, or those who prefer TV to books. And to write is the absolute thrill and privilege for me. Most mornings, I wake up not knowing if I'm Chinese, Indonesian, or American, and it is only through writing that I can create a landscape in which someone like myself would feel at ease and not be branded a foreigner. Books have no borders, no locks, no exclusionary policies. I feel incredibly blessed and grateful to be in this position. Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy Of Bees and Mist!"

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    1. Hometown:
      San Francisco, CA
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 15, 1975
    2. Place of Birth:
      Jakarta, Indonesia
    1. Education:
      B.A. in Psychology & B.S. in Computer Science, Stanford U., 1998; M.S. in Computer Science, Stanford U., 2000

Read an Excerpt

One

Few in town agreed on when the battle began. The matchmaker believed it started the morning after the wedding, when Eva took all of Meridia's gold and left her with thirteen meters of silk. The fortune-teller, backed by his crystal globe, swore that Eva's eyes did not turn pitiless until Meridia drenched them in goose blood three months later. The midwife championed another theory: The feud started the day Meridia held her newborn son with such pride that Eva felt the need to humble her. But no matter how loudly the townspeople debated, the answer remained a mystery — and the two women themselves were to blame. Meridia said little, and Eva offered conflicting explanations, which confirmed the town's suspicion that neither one of them could actually remember.

The town first took notice of Meridia at the hour of her birth. That evening, following what would be remembered as twenty-seven hours of labor, she was extracted blue and wrinkled from Ravenna's womb. Her lungs, despite the ten slaps administered to her rump, refused to take even one breath. The midwife was about to bundle her away when Ravenna scolded: "What are you doing, woman? Give her to me!"

In her calm, ordinary voice, Ravenna told the baby that after putting her through eight months of discomfort and twenty-seven hours of unadulterated pain, after ruining her figure and swelling her breasts and wreaking havoc on her appetite, the least she could do was give her mother a farewell cry. "The tiniest squeak would do," said Ravenna. "A yowl would be even better." Ravenna went on for some minutes, rocking her daughter gently, and by the time she recited the intimate details surrounding the baby's conception — "if you could only see the ungodly contortions your father had me do" — Meridia spluttered a cough and inhaled her first breath.

"Stubborn little creature," chuckled Ravenna. "Do you think you're too good for this world?"

The midwife waited in vain for the baby to cry. Meridia gasped and grimaced, but one thing she did not do was cry. An hour later, shaking and scratching her head, the midwife departed. To every person she saw she confided, "One hundred babies delivered, and I've never seen one like her. Whether she is an angel or a demon only time will tell."

A few months shy of Meridia's first birthday, a blinding flash of light traveled at great speed in the dark of night and awakened her. There was a crash and a tumble, followed by a terrible scream, and suddenly she was snatched up from her bassinet and crushed against Ravenna's bosom. At the age of three, after Meridia learned enough words to speak, she tried to articulate to Ravenna what she had witnessed. All her mother did was sigh and mutter, "Some things are better left as dreams, child." Was it a dream then? Meridia wanted to ask, but Ravenna had turned to her vegetables and forgotten her. Her mother's back was straight and sturdy — capable, Meridia suspected, of holding unknowable secrets.

The house at 24 Monarch Street was made of glass and steel. Perched on a high hill, it boasted a mansard roof, large latticed windows, and a veranda banked by daffodils. Stone steps climbed the sloping garden to the front door, over which an ivory mist hovered regardless of weather. The mist was a bane to peddlers and visitors alike, for it often held them suspended in midair, stole their hats, or chased them away with terrifying noises. Inside, the house obeyed a law of its own. The wood floors echoed no sound of footsteps, and people simply appeared in doorways without warning. The spiral staircase shortened and lengthened at random, and it could take toddling Meridia two seconds to two hours to go from one floor to the other. Mirrors were especially treacherous: In them Meridia could glimpse unfamiliar landscapes and all shapes of apparitions. Despite the large open windows, dusk never quite left the rooms; the sun could be blazing yet inside, the brightest objects looked dim and unappealing.

It was always cold in the house. Even at the height of summer with the fire going, Meridia was unable to keep warm. In the mornings, the nurse dressed her in heavy winter clothes as though a storm was brewing. At bedtime, the good woman wrapped her in two or three blankets and still her bones chattered. The cold emanated from one room, where at all hours a frosty wind fluttered curtains and rattled lamps. Meridia did not know how Ravenna could sleep in that room; her father, Gabriel, certainly never did. Meridia was four when she noticed that no words had ever passed between her parents. Five when she realized that the three of them were never in the same room at the same time. Gabriel spent his days in the study at the front of the house. Exactly what it was he studied, no one could say. In hushed tones, the nurse and the maids referred to him as a man of science, a celebrated scholar, an astute investor who had doubled his inheritance and was now living for the sake of knowledge. They were all terrified of him. No sooner did they sight his shadow than they trembled like leaves. Gabriel seldom spoke to them. A gesture or a look was all he needed to convey his command, which everyone but Ravenna followed like a mandate from heaven.

Meridia regarded her father with both fear and respect. A tall and elegant man, Gabriel was direct in manner, limited in patience, scrupulous in appearance. He had a firm chin and a grim mouth, and his dark eyes were severe and without warmth. He walked with a slight stoop, which gave him the appearance of a swooping raptor. Not once had Meridia heard him laugh. That he resented her — for reasons that would not become clear until years later — was the first thing she noticed about him. If he were to ever take her in his arms or speak a kind word to her, she would not have the slightest idea of what to do.

One day, despite the nurse's warnings, Meridia stole into the study when no one was looking. She had simply meant to peek around the door, but when she saw that Gabriel was out, she braved herself to enter. Though she had no previous recollection of being there, the room looked welcoming and familiar. She grinned at the towers of books that made up the walls, at the hanging maps and graphs full of numbers. Cabinet after cabinet was jammed with flasks, beakers, burners. Meridia skipped toward the massive desk by the window. Jars of growing seeds populated the surface, and they were all winking at her. She was reaching to touch them when a shadow fell across the desk.

"Who gave you permission to enter?"

Meridia turned and shrank. Her grin instantly melted from her face.

"Speak up! Don't just stand there drooling like an ape."

"I — I — "

Gabriel had not raised his voice, yet Meridia felt the whole world was screaming at her. Confronted with his immaculate suit and shiny oxford shoes, she felt dirty, small, purposeless. As she beseeched the maps and books for a way out, every object in the room darkened like an artifact of hate. Meridia dropped her eyes and did not dare lift them.

"You are five years old and quite capable of forming a sentence. Do you mean to stand there and insult me with your silence?"

"Papa — I — "

She was saved from further agony by her nurse, who ran into the study trembling with fright.

"It's my fault, Master. I didn't think — "

Gabriel did not deign to look at her. "It is immaterial what you think or don't think. If I ever find her in here again..."

Quick for her considerable bulk, the nurse yanked Meridia out of the study. Once upstairs, she berated her charge soundly, but soon took pity and enfolded the child in her arms.

"You darling girl," she said with infinite tenderness. "Don't you mind your father too much. Some men can't help themselves when they're battered."

Her eyes pale and small, Meridia stood without moving. What had she done wrong? Why did Gabriel despise her like an enemy? Failing to stop the chill where his shadow had touched her, she wondered if all fathers were cruel and all mothers forgetful.

If the study was Gabriel's shrine, then the kitchen was Ravenna's sanctuary. In this large, bright room where the ceiling soared two stories high and the tiles were scrubbed four times a day, the lady of the house poured her venom into the endless meals she cooked. As she chopped, grilled, and boiled, Ravenna addressed the vegetables in a dark and private language, telling them of sorrow and despair. The fury of her pots and pans kept visitors away, while her air of absentmindedness spun a web of solitude about her. These endless meals, much more than her family could eat, were invariably donated to the poor. Apart from the kitchen, Ravenna entrusted the house to the care of the nurse and the two maids. This included the rearing of Meridia, whose existence she seemed able to recollect only with difficulty.

Ravenna's attire was limited to a plain black dress, which she kept protected with a white apron while she cooked. Long-sleeved and high-necked, the dress hid her pale arms and pointed shoulder blades, but did little to soften her appearance. Her face was so sharply angular it was saved from gauntness simply by her generous nose. Perfumed with verbena, her black hair was swept up into an implacable knot, so tight and bonelike it seemed a natural projection of her skull. Ravenna moved in a stiff and sudden manner, as though the aim of her action was decided at the tail end of a moment.

Due to her mother's forgetfulness, Meridia did not correctly estimate her date of birth until she was six. For years, using her own approximation, the nurse had always given her a present — her one and only — on July 2. However, on the morning of July 19 in her sixth year, Ravenna made a great clatter in the kitchen and summoned her. "Child!" she said breathlessly. "Why do you wear such a long face on your birthday? Look, I've made you a caramel cake. Go up to your room and put on a nice dress. I hope you don't mind that our party will be smaller this year." Meridia did not care for caramel and Ravenna never once held a party for her, but she did not trouble to correct her mother.

On the few occasions when they sat together in the living room, Ravenna would often drop her knitting and regard Meridia as if she had no idea who she was. Recognition, if it did occur, was swiftly followed by a tremor of shame. "Are you unhappy, child?" she would ask anxiously, sinking her chin to her bosom. Before Meridia could reply, Ravenna would snatch back her knitting and let fall a torrent of words: "Keep your spine stiff at all times. Never show anyone your tears. Never be at anybody's mercy. Nod if you're listening, child!"

Owing to her fear of infectious diseases, the nurse seldom allowed Meridia out of the house. Twice a month at most, when the sky was clear and the sun gentle, the good woman would take her to Cinema Garden for a brisk stroll. These outings were far from pleasurable for Meridia. Boiling inside a contraption of scarves and underclothes, knee socks and unyielding rubber boots, Meridia attracted as much jeering as pity as she staggered from one street to the next. The nurse, oblivious to her condition, would embarrass her further by remarking loudly, "Mind that dirty boy — from the looks of him he hasn't seen soap in weeks...See that wart-ridden woman over there? You'll end up like her if you don't do as I say...You're sweating an awful lot, dear. Tell me if you feel an attack is coming on..." Ten minutes after they arrived at Cinema Garden, before Meridia had time to inspect the blossoms or feed the golden swans in the fountain, the nurse would insist that they return home immediately before a contamination could occur. All of Meridia's objections would be met as follows: "You're irritable. Are you sure you haven't touched anything? Let's leave before it gets worse."

One afternoon in Meridia's ninth year, after she had been housebound for three weeks, Ravenna suddenly switched off the stove, untied her apron, and declared that she would take her to the market. Curious to know what a market was, Meridia hurried to put on her shoes. The nurse attempted to fortify her with the usual garments, but Ravenna stopped her with a bellow. "Have you lost your mind, woman? It's hot enough outside to brand a cow!" Amid the nurse's scandalized look, they set off, Ravenna severe in her black dress, Meridia torn between a smile and a sense of disloyalty to the nurse. She soon forgot the latter, however, when Ravenna took her hand and led her across the street. To her amazement, no one laughed at her. Several onlookers even complimented Ravenna on her pretty daughter.

"I can't and won't argue with you," Ravenna answered solemnly. "Any woman would be lucky to have a darling like her."

Meridia blushed all the way down to her shoulders. It was the first time her mother had ever praised her.

That day, Ravenna took her to a hot and crowded square. Meridia's eyes flew wide at the sight of people jostling and arguing, stalls crammed with fruit and vegetables, sacks of rice and flour, spices sold in egg-shaped jars. There were fowls dead and alive, fish heaped on beds of ice, crabs in bamboo crates, meat suspended from iron hooks. A woman grew herbs out of her body — thyme on her arms and rosemary on her chest — which customers plucked fresh with their own hands. A tattooed man swallowed whole radishes and spat them out chopped, seasoned, and pickled. The air was thick with aromas — both pleasant and odious — and the ground was wet and dirty. Had it not been for Ravenna's hand, which she clutched tighter as they made their round, Meridia would have felt overwhelmed. The nurse would never have taken her to this place.

Somewhere along the butchers' aisle, Meridia lost her mother. A current of people swept her back; she was pushed and prodded, stepped on, then driven against her will up and down the square. Ravenna was nowhere in sight. Without her, Meridia went unnoticed, glared at by shoppers only when they found her in the way. The butchers' cleavers frightened her beyond measure, the ruthless thwack of blade against bone and meat chucked hastily onto grainy papers. Along the ground, blood formed a fly-spotted river. The louder Meridia shouted, the more the crowd roared to drown her.

Perhaps she cried for hours. Her throat was certainly hoarse when a hand brushed against her cheek.

"Why are you crying, little girl?"

Meridia looked up to find a well-dressed woman in a sea green hat. Choking back tears, she labored to explain, but the woman interrupted her.

"Don't worry. Your mother is only playing hide-and-seek. Come, we'll find her soon enough."

The nurse's warning about the ghastly things that happened to children who followed strangers went off in Meridia's brain. However, not knowing what else to do, she took the woman's hand and followed.

They searched the square twice without finding Ravenna. On their third try, just as the last ray of hope was fading in Meridia's breast, the scent of verbena came strongly to her nose. She froze in her tracks, then quick as lightning dropped the woman's hand and charged against the crowd. She had spotted Ravenna's implacable knot. So great, so complete was her relief that her heart felt like bursting.

Standing before a flower stall, Ravenna was carrying packages in her hand. She turned abruptly when she felt the urgent tug on her dress.

"What is it, child?"

Ravenna's face was calm and untroubled. Meridia could not speak, for tears had once again sprung to her throat.

"What is it? Why are you crying?"

"What do you mean?" rebuffed the woman in the sea green hat. "She's been looking everywhere for you!"

Ravenna shot her a puzzled look. "What on earth for? I've been right here all along."

Unable to contain herself, Meridia broke out sobbing. Ravenna bent down and wiped her tears with her sleeve.

"Tilt your chin up, child. Keep your back straight. Why are you letting the whole world see you cry?"

Meridia sobbed all the more. Tossing her head, the woman in the sea green hat snorted, then gave Ravenna a sharp look before leaving. This look, unnoticed by the mother, sliced deep into the daughter's heart.

Though Ravenna held her hand all the way home, Meridia took no pleasure in it. The stranger's look burned in her vision, and along with shame and sadness, it stirred a reckless dark feeling inside her. More than once she wished she had a cleaver to hurl, not at the woman in the sea green hat, but at the forgetfulness that imprisoned Ravenna in a different world. She wanted to strike until her arm was tired, scream until her voice was gone, and hound down whatever demon had erected this wall between them. Copyright © 2009 by Erick Setiawan

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 185 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(75)

4 Star

(69)

3 Star

(29)

2 Star

(9)

1 Star

(3)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 185 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 22, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    My Favorite Book for 2009

    Erick Setiawan's debut novel Of Bees & Mist will take you on an epic journey to a mystical place. Prepare to suspend your disbelief and be jolted to an unfamiliar time and place where your imagination will be required to work overtime. This new author's creative skill is unquestionably evident in his evocative imagery which will have you really hearing the buzz of angry bees, smelling the lingering scent of verbena and finding your vision obscured by colored mists.

    This dark fairy tale features many engaging characters but mainly traces a character called Meridia. She grows up in a cold, lonely and loveless home full of deceit and humiliation. During her childhood she struggles to uncover the mysteries of her parents' marriage and the mists which strangle their home. When Meridia marries she moves into a new home that is not what it initially appears. She is forced to engage in an ongoing war with her spiteful mother-in-law in order to preserve herself and the love of her husband. Over and over again she must reach inside herself and connect with her inner strength in order to survive.

    There are many bizarre elements in this book which can be interpreted metaphorically or literally. The strange occurrences seem to dramatize the dynamics within a dysfunctional family and describe negative emotions as they would look if released visibly. The mist which hovers over the house also hovers over the book in general. I loved the ambiguity of the time and place in which the book is set. The more questions a good book evokes in our minds the better. I enjoy a book that is open to numerous possible interpretations because you can interact with it more. You can play with the ideas, language and setting in your own mind and build upon the scaffolding put up by the author. Of Bees and Mist is such a book.

    Setiawan's book depicts the universal theme of good against evil. It has a very dramatic feel in the way it slowly builds up to a crescendo. His unique interpretation of the theme places the battle in a fantasy realm and on a domestic scale. Essentially this book is about real family relationships; the hate, jealousy, betrayal, manipulation and ultimately love that binds people together. Of Bees & Mist is a timeless book that not only invites numerous readings but will echo in your subconscious long after you have savored every word.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Great story lost in the midst of the magical. 2 1/2 to 3 stars

    There is really an interesting story here of the internal struggles for life, freedom, power and love within a 3 generational family. This story could take place in any town, in any time. Erick Setiawan shows real potential in his debut novel. The problem is the mixing of several genres, from Mystical, to Supernatural, to Realism without really settling in on one and therefore there are some clumsy transitions from one to another that make it hard to follow at times. It is a family drama that, because of the straight forward story telling interrupted with bits of the magical, one might even have a hard time determining where to find it shelved in a bookstore or library. Some of the metaphors are quickly understandable, others will leave you just mystified at what is going on in that scene and why. This book will either enthrall you or frustrate you, or perhaps do both as it did with me. Erick has created great characters, and the pacing is excellent. This story plot of the combining, and conniving of these two families and how it impacts each member of the families is magical but often overshadowed by "the magical" world in which it takes place. It is creative yet confusing at times. The ending left me somewhat disappointed, and much left unanswered. Having said this though, Erick shows a great talent for writing and I am looking forward to seeing where he goes in his career but on this first outing, I think I could recommend it only to those who really enjoy fantasy. Though it would probably not be of interest to the younger readers because of the dramatic family plot line. I wanted to love this book, and so I read it all the way through. Unfortunately, in the end, I neither loved nor hated it. But I will be looking for more from this author in the future. His storytelling ability does intrigue me and he does have a great style. This really good drama mixed up unevenly with fantasy was just not the book for me.

    3 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 25, 2009

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    Uninviting

    Of Bees and Mist is a fairy tale for adults, full of fanciful features meant to symbolize pieces of the life of the main character, a young woman named Meridia. It is also something of a coming of age story. While many readers seem to find the book enchanting, for me the "magic" and metaphors were ludicrously exaggerated. Meridia's life is a misery from first page to last. Her parents come across as barely human, and they raise their daughter in a cold, misty void. Meridia's only "friend", Hannah, is obviously Meridia's inner self, the strength that lies buried within. Her husband is spineless, her mother in law a gross caricature of a harpy from hell (she's the one with the bees, an endless, malevolent supply of them.) The more minor characters are treated as pawns.

    For me, reading Of Bees and Mist was a bleak, disagreeable experience. I cannot recommend it, but would suggest to those considering giving it a try that they read the positive reviews as well, before making a decision one way or another.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 6, 2009

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    A Timeless Novel

    In his debut novel, Erick Setiawan tells the story of two families, three generations brought together by marriage. This is a story of love, hate, heartache, betrayal, long buried secrets and strength. It is a story of complex relationships between husbands and wives, mothers and daughters, a mother and son and a young woman and her new in-laws. The author uses mysticism, fantasy, magic and symbolism to describe the day to day events in the lives of these two families and the methods they choose to cope with their stuggles. His unique writing style draws the reader deep into the story from the very beginning. There are some twists and surprises and the ending is not predictable. This is a book that will stay with you long after you read the last line of the last chapter.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 1, 2009

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    Adult Fairy Tale?

    I started this book with an open mind. It had a magical opening with a haunted house covered in mists. However, the story line did not live up to expectation. It is neither a fairy tale or a myth. It is a story of a couple of dysfunctional families and how they destroyed each other. The ending was anticlimatic. There was no "moral" as in fairy tale, and it did not give a mythical tale to explain "This is how........."

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 30, 2009

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    of Bees and Mist

    First off, the cover of this book is amazing. The story is timeless. The magic is interwoven so seemlessly that you could really believe it. The symbolism in this book really kept me on my toes with meaning and double meaning. This book is a fairy tale for grown-ups.
    Although the main character of the story is Meridia, how she grows up, marries young and becomes a strong women in her own right. Erick Setiawan did a remarkable job in also telling the story of Ravenna, (Meridia's mother) and Eva, (Meridia's mother-in-law) and how all three shaped the lives of their families and those around them.
    Mr. Setiawan's style of writing was easy to follow and made this book a totally enjoyable read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 26, 2009

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    A remarkable debut and a magical journey through life

    Of Bees and Mist opened up a world previously unknown to me. A world where women can grow herbs out of their arms and chest, mist haunts the front door, and men can swallow vegetables whole and spit them out chopped, seasoned and pickled.

    There was something almost fantastical about the writing style. For some reason, as I read the book, which flowed with a surrealism and slight goth-like feel, I was reminded of children's stories like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (atleast the happy Gene Wilder movie version) and Neverending Story.

    You know how I can tell that I really like a book? I find myself taking notes while I read, wanting to make sure that I quote a favorite passage and get down my feelings at a particular moment. Much of my review on a "great book" is written during the reading of the book, so everything is fresh. I did that a LOT with this book.

    I guess this book wasn't really anything like I expected, and quite honestly if you were to give me details about it ahead of time I probably never would have read it. I wouldn't have expected to find a book written with such fantastical flavor, and which at times can be somewhat dark and heavy, so charming. Really a lovely and impressive debut by Mr. Setiawan. I look forward to seeing what rabbit he has hiding up his sleeve next.

    I jumped right into this book without really even taking in the cover art. Someone in the book discussion pointed out all of the hidden pictures to be found in the cover art-- pictures that are like little windows into Meridia's life.

    This book follows the often sad and bewildering life of Meridia, swallowed up in a world reminiscent of a Harry Potter book. You really feel for Meridia, and just want to take her in your arms and shelter her. You keep waiting for someone to do this. "Where is her protector?", you keep wondering in frustration. "Where is her shelter from the world? Her lee from the wind? Will no one be her champion?"

    I've said in the past that I'm not a "book club" kind of gal-- that I don't want to sit around and discuss books and symbolism. I just want to read a good story. I have to say that this book has shown that not to be entirely true. This book is FULL of symbolism, and I found that I LOVED it. Additionally it was a wonderfully good story and kept me totally absorbed.

    A remarkable debut novel, and highly recommended. Love it, love it, love it!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 28, 2010

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    This is an interesting adult fairy tale parable

    Meridia's home contains all types of magical spells and demons; not all kind. She thinks she will escape her hell of her dysfunctional battling parents when she falls in love with her knight in shining armor. She knows Daniel will rescue her.

    However, Meridia had not counted on his family especially his mother making her parents look harmonious. Eva is abusive to everyone but especially her new daughter in law. She uses bees as spies and weapons of mass destruction. Her treatment of others including Meridia has her finally fighting back as Daniel fails to intercede between the two women in his life.

    This is an interesting adult fairy tale parable that exaggerates Meridia's overall purity and the evilness of her parents and mother-in-law; the spouse is a wuss who chooses neither side in the extended family war of good and evil. Ghosts and killer bees add excitement to the mix, but Meridia as victim in her parents' home and Meridia as victim in her husband's home is too frequent with little respite as Erick Setiawan argues that adhering to the Golden Rule does not mean others will likewise. Still sub-genre readers will enjoy the war between the mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law while the man who links them stays docilely neutral.

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 20, 2009

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    Of Bees and Mist is at once magical and adventurous in the telling. Sometimes enchanting, sometimes a bit spooky. An impressive debut for Erick Setiawan.

    Of Bees and Mist falls into the 'magic-realist' fiction category and I have to say, that I don't think that I have ever read a book quite like this one. Meridia falls in love with Daniel and moves into his family's home. There she encounters Eva, the mother-in-law from hell. Eva is so wicked and vile that when she goes to work on you, bees fly out of her mouth to attack you. Needless to say, her words sting quite a bit. Elias, her husband is good at heart, but has a terrible time living with his wife and fights are a daily occurrence. At first, Meridia tries her best to get along with her mother-in-law, but all that ends when she has her own child and sees Eva for who she really is. This of course causes all sorts of problems between Meridia and her husband, Daniel.

    Reading this book was like taking a trip to the circus. Not the circus you and I know today, but a circus from years past. The colorful tents, the jugglers, the musicians, the smell of circus food wafting in the air. This book had a FEELING to it. Every time I picked it up I felt as if I was taken back in time to this magical place. I really enjoyed it.

    The only criticism I have is that the Meridia/Eva battle seemed to go on a tad too long and it sort of overshadowed the interactions between some of the other characters. Overall, I was charmed by this book and wonder what Erick Setiawan is working on next.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 17, 2009

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    A magic and enchanting book!

    I got this book in First Look Bookclub and have to say I liked it too much. What to say of a woman who buzzes like bees and a house full of mists? A man who hates his child and for years doesn't talk to his wife? A mysterious atmospehere rounds all the book. If you like stories full of magical powers, fables, rounded of adventures, love and overcomings so this is the story you have to read. An absorbing book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 11, 2009

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    This Grabs you in the first few pages

    If you like mystery, magicalyt powers, and a good love story then this book will be for you. I liked the main character Meridia. She is strong and knows what she wants. The love story between her and Daniel is excellent and to be admired. My mother in law looks good compared to Meridia's. I am anxious to read other books from this new writer.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 1, 2009

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    First Look strikes again!

    I signed up for the Barnes and Noble First Look Club to receive this book. Although completely outside the realm of what I normally read, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I was a little confused at first, and wasn't sure I would like this book. But, I gave it a chance. The characters were rich, although not everyone of them was pleasant. The story was easy to keep wrapped up into. I enjoyed the magic elements, which felt to me like the could be part of everyday life. I felt like the characters were easy to identify with even with the magic. I liked that the story could have taken place anywhere and anytime. Overall 2 thumbs up for a great debut book from a new author.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 21, 2009

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    I Also Recommend:

    The title is intriguing yet simple. It's a pull to open the book and discover what the two words produce.

    The beginning was confusing for me. I realized that I had to let myself be "in the story". Then I was able to understand and appreciate the characters. All the characters were strong; and I found myself projecting what would happen only to be surprised later. It was an exciting story and I look forward to other works of Mr. Setiawan.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 6, 2009

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    Very different place and time - check it out

    This is my first First Look Book Club experience and it was very interesting.

    The book was different from anything that I'd read before. When I began, it seemed very too slow. I kept hoping that there would be more action, less of the sadness. Fortunately, the book became more absorbing as Meredia took more control over her life. I enjoyed reading about her "becoming normal" and her friendships with her new neighbors after she moved into her own home.

    I think that not everyone will like this book, but those who do will truly enjoy it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 2, 2009

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    Strange, to say the least

    Meridia grows up in a family where her mother and father both treat her horribly. Her parents seem to forget that Meridia even exists. She then meets Daniel and hopes that her life will change for the better. She moves in with Daniel's family and soon things are worse than they were with her own parents. Daniel's mother is wonderful at first, then her true colors start showing and Meridia is stuck between her husband and her mother-in-law. It is a war and both women are determined to win...

    I am probably the only person on the planet who didn't just love this book! I thought it was just plain strange. There are lots of unusual things happening in this story from mysterious mists, to swarms of bees, and all kinds of other strange things. I got frustrated with the never ending obstacles facing Miridia-she goes from one battle to the next. She never seems to catch a break and it gets old after a while. The characters were vibrant and very real, but the story just didn't do it for me.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 27, 2009

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    Not what I expected

    I had the opportunity to read Of Bees and Mist as part of Barnes & Noble's First Look club. I like magic and fantasy, but this book did not 'do it' for me. Yes, I read it all, and went back to re-read parts to see what I was perhaps missing that other readers were getting from it. I never did find that magic. I did find that the over-exaggeration of magic and metaphors got me les and less 'enchanted' with it.

    Of Bees and Mist is a fairy tale for adults. It is also somewhat of a coming of age story for it's main character, Mederia, and her miserable life. Her parents were virtually non-existent for her. Meridia's only "friend", Hannah, was/is too obviously Meridia's internal hopes and dreams. Her husband is spineless and lets his mother dictate his life.

    I cannot recommend reading Of Bees and Mist, despite the many good reviews. However, you may find the magic that was missing for me.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 26, 2009

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    Good First Novel - 2 1/2 Stars

    For a first book, it has some strong points. Erick has weaved scents/fragrances theme that evoke strong memories and feelings throughout the story. A strong set of characters cemented the storyline. The best is the character of Eva as the epitome of the evil in-law. I was disappointed in the ending because I would have liked Eva to have a stronger part in the ending. The book could have weaved the magic/mysticism with the real life of the characters better to keep the flow. The characters were so strong that sometimes the mysticism seemed superfluous. I liked that the fragrance theme was continued out til the last section. I liked the fragrances and I thought that the use of fragrance was done well throughout the book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 18, 2009

    Vivid imagery throughout

    Meridia lives in a world that weaves midevil times (there are no cars), present (there are telephones) and magic. I was sucked in instantly by the wonderful writing and imagery throughout. Meridia is a lonely child who doesn't have much contact with the outside world until she meets Daniel at a street fair at the age of 16. She falls in love with him instantly and they marry. At first, everything is wonderful, but soon enough her mother-in-law intrudes upon their happiness. Meridia, using skills learned from both her mother and her mother-in-law, is able to withstand the barrage of torment while remaining a sympathetic character. The story may be a little cliche, but I felt the characters were well-developed and believable and I had a hard time putting this one down.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 15, 2009

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    Enter the Mist

    I have to say, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect with this one. It was billed as an 'adult fable', set in a world similar to ours but where magic and mysticism was real. Surprisingly, it wasn't hokey or overbearing... in fact, the world of the book was exactly like ours, but for a few supernatural elements that fit into place as smoothly as, say... that final Christmas tree ornament that doesn't distract from everything around it, but simply pulls everything together and makes it look complete.

    The story follows three women and the men in their lives, and I was surprised at how well Setiawan was able to write sympathetic female characters. I can't say the book was entirely driven by a central plot, more like a central idea... and at times I felt like I was simply observing the lives of people rather than being engaged in a story, and yet... it worked. I kept reading. I was intrigued and wanted to see where it went, what these bizarre people would do next, and how they would manipulate each other over and over again.

    I'll admit it - I haven't quite figured out yet what the point of the whole thing was, but I do know that I put the book down with a pleasant feeling of time well spent, and a knowing that I would easily recommend it to others.

    If you want to know more about the story itself, perhaps read a synopsis on the website here, as I don't want to give away too much about the people within its pages before you get to know them on your own.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2014

    Love

    Love

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