The Death of Bees: A Novel

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Overview

Today I buried my parents in the backyard.
Neither of them were beloved.

Marnie and her little sister, Nelly, are on their own now. Only they know what happened to their parents, Izzy and Gene, and they aren't telling. While life in Glasgow's Maryhill housing estate isn't grand, the girls do have each other.

As the New Year comes and goes, Lennie, the old man next door, realizes that his young neighbors are ...

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Overview

Today I buried my parents in the backyard.
Neither of them were beloved.

Marnie and her little sister, Nelly, are on their own now. Only they know what happened to their parents, Izzy and Gene, and they aren't telling. While life in Glasgow's Maryhill housing estate isn't grand, the girls do have each other.

As the New Year comes and goes, Lennie, the old man next door, realizes that his young neighbors are alone and need his help. Lennie takes them in—feeds them, clothes them, protects them—and something like a family forms. But soon, the sisters' friends, their teachers, and the authorities start asking tougher questions. As one lie leads to another, dark secrets about the girls' family surface, creating complications that threaten to tear them apart.

Written with ferce sympathy and beautiful precision, told in alternating voices, The Death of Bees is an enchanting, grimly comic tale of three lost souls who, unable to answer for themselves, can answer only for one another.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Fifteen-year-old Marnie Doyle and her kid sister Kelly harbor a little secret: Their mom and dad are buried in the back garden of their Glasgow home. Fearing foster care more than other possible consequences, the pair have concocted a somewhat shoddy ruse to protect themselves, but the solicitude of a lonely gay neighbor threatens to bring down the entire charade. Told by the sister in alternate first-person chapters, The Death of Bees grabs us first with the promise of suspense, then keeps us rapt with its strong characterizations. (P.S. The Scotsman hailed this debut fiction as "warm without being cozy, explicit without being shocking, and emotive without being schmaltzy....a powerful coming-of-age tale."

Publishers Weekly
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.)
Guardian
“Mixing The Ladykillers with Irvine Welsh’s The Acid House… O’Donnell adeptly balances caustic humour and compassion.”
Herald (Scotland)
The Death of Bees is compelling stuff, engaging the emotions from the first page and quickly becoming almost impossible to put down.”
Scotsman
“Warm without being cozy, explicit without being shocking, and emotive without being schmaltzy . . . a powerful coming-of-age tale.”
Daily Mail (London)
“This vibrantly-imagined novel, by turns hilarious and appalling, is hard to resist.”
Guardian
“Mixing The Ladykillers with Irvine Welsh’s The Acid House… O’Donnell adeptly balances caustic humour and compassion.”
Financial Times
The Death of Bees steadily draws you into its characters’ emotional lives.”
Library Journal
Marnie and Nellie have a problem: they buried their parents in the back garden after finding them dead. Ages 15 and 12, they are desperate to avoid being placed in foster care before Marnie turns 16, when she can live on her own under British law. Lennie, their next-door neighbor in the Glasgow, Scotland, housing estate, has noticed the girls are on their own. Old, lonely, and a great cook, Lennie takes them in and has his own reasons for not wanting to report them to the authorities. The three get along quite well until the girls' grandfather shows up. There are other complications as well, such as the issue of the money the girls' drug-dealing father has hidden, and Lennie's dog, who loves to dig in his neighbors' yard. VERDICT Quirky characters with distinct voices enliven this sometimes grim and often funny coming-of-age story in the vein of Karen Russell's best seller Swamplandia! 'Donnell's debut is sure to be a winner with adults and young adults alike.—Nancy H. Fontaine, Norwich P.L., VT
Kirkus Reviews
An unusual coming-of-age novel that features two sisters who survive years of abuse and neglect. The story is set in Scotland, written with a distinct Scottish flavor, in very brief chapters told from the alternating points of view of the two girls and a neighbor who takes them in and ultimately covers for them when their dark secret is uncovered. The story starts when the older sister discovers both of her parents dead, her father suffocated in his bed and her mother hanging in an outdoor shed. She and her younger sister decide to bury their parents in the garden rather than risk a return to the foster care which they had previously endured and disliked. To anyone who asks, including a drug dealer to whom their father owed money, they say their parents are in Turkey, but eventually the drug dealer finds the passports the parents would have needed to travel abroad. The neighbor, who has his own secrets and heartache, looks after them, feeds them and takes them into his home. Meanwhile, the dead mother's father, who had abandoned her not once but twice, comes looking for her to make amends since he got himself sober and discovered God. He does not, however, treat his granddaughters in a very loving way. In the midst of these developments, the neighbor's dog discovers the bones in the garden, and the neighbor, in an effort to protect the girls he has come to love and cherish as his own children, moves the bones to his own garden and eventually claims to have murdered the pair. While dealing with this strange and surreal experience, the two girls also go through the more mundane trials of female adolescence--peer pressures at school, menstruation and the confusions that accompany awakening sexuality. The author's experience as a screenwriter is most definitely apparent, as the reader always hears the voices and can visualize the dramatic, sometimes appallingly grim scenes. Recommended for readers who love film.
Financial Times
The Death of Bees steadily draws you into its characters’ emotional lives.”
Booklist
"O’Donnell’s finely drawn characters display the full palette of human flaws and potential. Told in the alternating voices of Marnie, Nelly, and Lennie, this beautifully written page-turner will have readers fretting about what will become of the girls."
Herald (Scotland)
The Death of Bees is compelling stuff, engaging the emotions from the first page and quickly becoming almost impossible to put down.”
Scotsman
“Warm without being cozy, explicit without being shocking, and emotive without being schmaltzy . . . a powerful coming-of-age tale.”
Daily Mail (London)
“This vibrantly-imagined novel, by turns hilarious and appalling, is hard to resist.”
Examiner (Northern California)
“[A] chiller told in three voices which will intrigue readers to the last pages…O’Donnell has done a masterful job of sketching her characters…The end is largely unexpected and highly dramatic, but at the same time is the perfect ending to this chilling tale…[a] brilliant book.”
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“Lisa O’Donnell, an award-winning screenwriter, grabs the reader from the get-go...”
RT Book Reviews
“The author brilliantly paints the characters’ best traits through the eyes of the other characters, and their worst traits through their own voices.”
Spencer Daily Reporter
“In more ways than the first line, The Death of Bees reminds me of Donoghue’s Room. Maybe it’s because both authors originated from the United Kingdom. Maybe it’s because both stories carry a darkness brightened only by the innocence of the main characters.
The Hub
“The quirky characters and thrilling plotlines will leave readers anxious to find out what will become of the girls. This poignant, compelling, and hopeful tale teaches readers that a desperate situation can always be alleviated by reaching out to others.”
Bibliophage
“This is a sweet, funny book filled with two sister’s unrelenting love for each other and their determination to stay together at all costs…it is a good read and if you are interested in being taken on a crazy ride, this is the book for you.”
Columbus Dispatch
“As a gothic novel and a psychological look at the effects of trauma, it had verve and nerve…O’Donnell knows how to keep a reader engaged, and her sympathy — and hope — for her characters tempers what could have been a sordid tale.”
New York Times
“In this first novel she pulls off the unusual pairing of grisly and touching.”
Booklist (starred review)
“O’Donnell’s finely drawn characters display the full palette of human flaws and potential. Told in the alternating voices of Marnie, Nelly, and Lennie, this beautifully written page-turner will have readers fretting about what will become of the girls.”
Shelf Awareness
“O’Donnell’s wildly original debut examines the intricacies of betrayal and loyalty within one family and their effects on two vulnerable young girls…With a gritty but redemptive take on family and the price of secrets, O’Donnell’s debut will be well-received by fans of mainstream literature and Scottish noir mysteries alike.”
Alison Espach
The Death of Bees is completely addictive. A beautiful and darkly funny story of two sisters building a fantasy within a nightmare.”
Helen Fitzgerald
“The most original and incredible piece of writing I’ve come across in years.”
Christian Science Monitor
“O’Donnell walks a fine line, describing appalling events without ever allowing the novel to lose its warm heart....The Death of Bees is that rare thing: a family-values black comedy.”
Houston Chronicle
“Wild, witty and as funny as it is unsettling. The Death of Bees is really about the strength of sisters, the sparkle of imagination and how even the most motley of half lives can somehow coalesce into a shining whole.”
Ladies’ Home Journal
“We loved this novel and think you will, too…The Death of Bees gives us one of the most memorable protagonists in recent fiction.”
Guardian
“Mixing The Ladykillers with Irvine Welsh’s The Acid House… O’Donnell adeptly balances caustic humour and compassion.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062209849
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/2/2013
  • Pages: 311
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Lisa O'Donnell won the Orange Screenwriting Prize in 2000 for her screenplay The Wedding Gift. Her debut novel, The Death of Bees, was the winner of the 2013 Commonwealth Book Prize. She lives in Scotland.

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Read an Excerpt

The Death of Bees


By Lisa O'Donnell

HarperCollins Publishers

Copyright © 2013 Lisa O'Donnell
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-06-220984-9


Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Marnie


Izzy called me Marnie after her mother. She's dead now, actually they're both dead. I'm just saying that's how I got it, my name. My mum had a boring name, didn't suit her at all. She was an Isabel called Izzy. She should have been a Charlie, I think of her as a Charlie. My dad had a gay name, Eugene. He never said he hated it, but I bet he did. Everyone called him Gene, but he was a bit of a Frankie, a Tommy, maybe a Mickey. My pal Kimberly gets called Kimbo, she's always getting into fights and would smack her own shadow if she thought she could catch it. Kimbo's name evolved from a slagging she got for being a total psycho and it stuck, like a warning. "Here comes Kimbo, run for your life."

My other pal is Susie. Her real name's Suzanne and for a long time that's what we called her, we never felt inclined to shorten it the way people do with long names, but then when we were about eleven years old she told us she didn't want to be called Suzanne anymore, she wanted to be called Susie. She thought it sounded older and sexier, I suppose it does. Of course her granny still calls her Snoozy, mortifying baby name. Then there's my sister, Helen, we call her Nelly, to be honest, I don't think she knows her name is Helen, she's been Nelly since she was a baby. Nell would have been cooler, but she was like Dumbo when she was born, so Nelly was a perfect fit. Izzy said choosing my name was a nightmare; she wanted something different for me, something sophisticated that made people look twice at me, as if they'd missed something about me the first time they looked, and so she chose her mother's name. I understand Emma was also a hot favorite, so was Martha, but Gene didn't like Emma, he said it was a weak name. He didn't like Sam either because he got dumped by a Sam. He also knew a Siobhan who got smacked by a bus when she bent down to pick up a fag end on the curb side. Gene's favorite was Elise because of a song by the Cure, but Izzy hated it, she was more of a New Order fan and I understand Elegia was discussed.

Izzy said I was tiny when I was born, a preemie rushed to the intensive care unit where I was kept in a plastic bubble for nine weeks with Gene and Izzy peering at me through Perspex glass. The safest place I've ever been. Anyway that's why I'm Marnie and not Eve or Prudence or Lucretia. I'm Marnie. Too young to smoke, too young to drink, too young to fuck, but who would have stopped me?

People think Nelly's nicer than me, but only 'cause she's off her head. She's twelve. She likes cornflakes with Coke and period dramas. She likes old movies with Bette Davis and Vivien Leigh. She likes documentaries about animals and anything to do with Harry Potter, she's obsessed with him. She also plays the violin courtesy of Sarah May Pollock, a music teacher who weeded out talent every year by forcing us to listen to recorded notes. I was never selected to play an instrument, although I like to sing and can hold a tune pretty well, but it was Nelly who identified the treble clef necessary to play the piano, an instrument she boked at, drawn instead to a lone violin with a broken string lying flat on a gray Formica table. Obviously she plays brilliantly and within a short period of time Miss Pollock ended up giving her the violin for keeps, a gift last Christmas, that's how good Nelly is or how good Miss Pollock was who loved to play with her. Unfortunately Miss Pollock left the school, was replaced by Mr. Charker, a trumpet man. Nelly still plays and like a master someone said and of course our school gives her a platform every Christmas mostly to wow the board of governors even though the school is not advancing her in any way by hiring someone else to teach her. Not that it would make any difference when she can actually play without music. Kimbo and Susie love to hear her play, so do the neighbors and I like it too except when she pulls it out in the middle of nowhere and starts in with the Bach because she does that, on the subway sometimes, in a bookstore on Sauchiehall Street, and on a bus to Wemyss Bay once. No one ever minds, 'cause she's so good but it sort of embarrasses me, her zipping away and me next to her smoking a fag like a total stranger, as if we don't belong together.

Another little foible of Nelly's is how she talks. She sounds like the queen of England most of the time. She doesn't say mum, she says mother and she doesn't say dad, she says father. She has sentences in her head like "What the devil's going on?" and "What on earth's all this hullabaloo?" I've also heard her say "confounded" and "good golly." Drives me nuts. Constantly having to protect her from head cases who think she's taking the piss. She also wears spectacles, round ones like Harry Potter; she's recently developed an obsession with him and wears them like they're real glasses, except they're not. Last Christmas Izzy got her a magic cloak, but she only wears it around the house and one time to take out the rubbish.

Truth is Nelly's a wee bit touched, not retarded or anything, just different. She doesn't have many friends, she doesn't laugh much, and when you talk to her about something serious she gets really quiet, like she's taking it in and then rearranging it in her head. I don't know how she arranges it, I just know it's different from how I might arrange it. She also takes things very literally, so you have to be careful what you say. For instance if I said, "You're fucking mental," she'd say something like, "I can assure you, Marnie, one is perfectly sane!" I don't know why she's not dead to be honest. You can't talk like that, not in Maryhill.

Gets to you after a while, even the teachers, they can't deal with her at all. When she started secondary school they put her in a class for total fannies, but halfway through the school year they had to take her out 'cause she's totally brainy at science. Pure Einstein stuff and then of course there's the violin.

I feel sorry for her. I mean she can't help it, being how she is, it's not like she wants to say everything in her head. She can't help it, like telling the toughest girl in her year, Sharon Henry, she should wash her "down theres" 'cause Nelly could smell her "foulness." Seriously. No censor. Lucky for her Shaz thought it was funny, which meant everyone else was permitted to say it was funny, even luckier, it wasn't said in front of any guys. Apparently Shaz grabbed a bar of soap and told everyone she was off to wash her "down theres" and then simulated cleaning aforementioned unmentionables. Hysterical laughter ensued sued interrupted by an irate Miss Moray, who wants everyone to fuck off so she can have her lunch. Now whenever any of the girls from Nelly's class walk past her they simulate washing their vaginas or ask her if she can smell fanny. Nelly doesn't get it. Tells them not to worry - "They're perfectly sanitary."

There's other stuff of course, like the rabid chitchat and usually about something totally random. I remember when Steve Irwin died, the reptile guy, for about a month it was the only thing she'd talk about. Steve Irwin's widow, his daughter, and of course stingrays. Where stingrays live. What stingrays look like. How to get poisoned by a stingray. You want to thump her when she gets like that.

I prefer the Harry obsession, it's quieter. When Nelly's reading, nothing exists, not even me, I love it when she's reading, I like not existing, even for an hour. I think the Harry Potter thing reminds her of Nana Lou. She read a couple of the books to her when she took care of us that time but those days are well over. We're on our own now. Izzy and Gene are dead and no one can know what we've done with them. We'd get separated for sure, they'd put me in a home and God knows what they'd do to Nelly. Anyway I'll be sixteen in a year. They can't touch me then. I could have a baby at sixteen and get married, I'm considered an adult and legally able to take care of both of us.

I suppose I've always taken care of us really. I was changing nappies at five years old and shopping at seven, cleaning and doing laundry as soon as I knew my way to the launderette and pushing Nelly about in her wee buggy when I was six. They used to call me wee Maw around the towers, that's how useless Gene and Izzy were. They just never showed up for anything and it was always left to me and left to Nelly when she got old enough. They were never there for us, they were absent, at least now we know where they are.
(Continues...)


Excerpted from The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell. Copyright © 2013 by Lisa O'Donnell. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Interviews & Essays

A Conversation with Lisa O'Donnell, author of THE DEATH OF BEES

You started out as a screenwriter and won a couple of awards early on — the Orange Screenwriting Prize in 2000 for The Wedding Gift, which, in the same year was nominated for the Dennis Potter New Screenwriters Award. What made you shift gears towards writing fiction?
I worked in TV for a while but found myself working on other people's ideas. I wanted to see my own stories come to life and though I considered novel writing I was a little afraid of the medium. It took me a long time to pluck up the courage to write something down and when I did I wrote: "Today is Christmas Eve. Today is my birthday. Today I am fifteen. Today I buried my parents in the backyard. Neither of them were beloved". These are the first words Marnie says in The Death of Bees. I must have looked at those words for about 6 months before I had Marnie say something else. I just wasn't sure where I was going to place those words, in the context of a screenplay or a novel? I'm glad I chose a novel.

The voices of your two young protagonists, Marnie who is 15 and Nelly who is 12, seem completely authentic - their fears and joys are distinctly those of teenagers who've just buried their no-good, drug-addicted, alcoholic parents in the backyard of their Glasgow housing development. How did you get inside their minds and hearts?
I knew them already. I am a social gleaner. I listen to people with my eyes as well as my ears and I am fortunate enough to have known all kinds of people in my life, for better or worse. I have known poverty and the challenges that come with it and I have lived in environments where those challenges have affected the lives of others.

I knew many Marnie's in my adolescence. I was always drawn to the kind of girl who holes herself up in a cloudy bathroom. I can't deny I was afraid of these girls and I suppose another person might have run away from them, but I ran towards them. I wanted to know their stories and when they eventually confided in me I would hoard those secrets like a bag lady might. It was easy to write Marnie. It was like writing an old friend. When writing Nelly I just flipped Marnie upside down. They are bound together by love and secrets but if you look closely they are essentially the same person.

Where did the idea for The Death of Bees come from? Does any of the story come from your own experiences?
Living on the East Side of L.A I see the same level of poverty I experienced as a child during 80's Thatcherism. I was in my car recently when I saw this little girl maybe about seven walking in front of her mother and pushing a stroller. The mother was also pushing a stroller and holding the hand of a small toddler, but it was the young girl that caught my attention. I thought to myself "She's a wee mother" which later translated in The Death of Bees as "Wee Maw" when referring to Marnie raising Nelly.

Later, my sister sent me a docudrama about families in Scotland living with drugs and poverty, and again, the maturity of the children immersed in such a heartbreaking situation struck a chord. One child in particular was talking to the journalist about a father who might not return with the groceries for the week and go on a bender instead. She worried about Welfare Services getting involved in her life again. I wondered what the girl who waited for her father to return home with the groceries would do if she had had the money to go for the groceries herself, I wondered what she would do if it was in her power to get the electric bill paid, and what lengths she would go to in order to survive parents who had essentially vanished from her life. The thought then occurred to me that these children would be better off raising themselves. That's when I came up with the idea of The Death of Bees and had two children bury their parents in the yard making them disappear forever, leaving the girls to their own devices.

It seems that in Marnie and Nelly's world, the adults are the children and the children are the adults - the roles are switched. Except for their neighbor Lennie who is a deeply flawed character with secrets of his own, there aren't many real adult role models for the two girls. What were you trying to say here? And how does this bode for Marnie and Nellie's future?
It's a sad truth but lots of children out there are left to take care of themselves and if you pay attention you'll see it all around you. The sin is not paying attention. These children possess a level of maturity that's almost obscene and it's thrust upon them if they are to survive the abuses of the people who are supposed to take care of them, but I wanted these girls to survive it. I wanted to illuminate the reliance, the strength, and the character it requires to endure what these girls are put through. I created adults as a device to bring love and protection back in their lives but when I wrote their grandfather it was to illuminate how little they were willing to tolerate and to underline how strong these girls have become.

There's a lot of humor in the book - readers will especially enjoy the scenes when Lennie's dog keeps digging up the bones of the dead parents - did you have fun writing these scenes? What other scenes and characters are your favorites?
In Macbeth to relieve tension Shakespeare creates comedy through the Porter. The dog is my Porter. I find people are more willing to pay attention to intense subject matter if they know they're going to be relieved with a bit of humor. It would have been too bleak a story if I hadn't peppered it with comedy. I like the scenes with the dog but I also enjoyed writing the scenes where Nelly and Marnie are burying their parents. That was comic to me and I got away with a lot, but at this stage of the material, though a grueling read, the reader knows that laughs are expected and forthcoming and give themselves permission to read on.

You've moved from Scotland to Los Angeles - Have you been able to see fictional characters and settings more clearly from that distance? Has your writing life improved in any other ways?
I love the US and I love living in Los Angeles. It is a city awash with experience and everyone has a story here. I glean from people what I can, but I can't shake the Scottish thing. It's what I know best, I hear Scotland whenever I write. It's where my second book is set and hope to look at themes that affect us all.

What's next for you?
I come from a small island in Scotland where everyone knows everything about everyone and so I love the thought of things that are actually kept secret in a world like that. My next book will focus on a big secret having repercussions for everyone who keeps it.

Who have you discovered lately?
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce [A Fall 2012 Discover Great New Writers Selection. -Ed.] is a wonderfully vivid book full of charm and tenderness. It's an amazing debut and I am looking forward to reading more from her in the future.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 52 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 52 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 28, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Eugene Doyle. Born 19 June 1972. Died 17 December 2010, aged thi

    Eugene Doyle. Born 19 June 1972. Died 17 December 2010, aged thirty-eight. Isabel Ann Macdonald. Born 24 May 1974. Died 18 December 2010, aged thirty-six.

    Today is Christmas Eve. Today is my birthday. Today I am fifteen. Today I buried my parents in the backyard. Neither of them were beloved."

    The opening prologue of Lisa O'Donnell's book The Death of Bees hooked me right away. Aren't you wondering? Where can the story go after such a beginning? Well, O'Donnell takes it place I wouldn't have imagined......

    Marnie and her sister Nelly live on a housing estate in Glasgow. With the death of their parents Marnie is determined to keep herself and the younger Nelly together. So she lies - if anyone asks, their parents have gone to Turkey for a bit. It's not that much of a stretch - the girls have been left to fend for themselves many times as Gene and Izzy drink, smoke and party their lives away. But, Lennie, the lonely old man next door does notice. He begins to help them, feeding them and providing a clean, warm place for them to stay. But the questions start coming from all sides - teachers, friends and more. And Lennie helps the girls by lying as well. Until......

    The story is told in chapters alternating through the three main characters. The same events are seen very differently in some cases. O'Donnell's characters are wonderful. Marnie is tough, resilient, brilliant but tiring of holding it all together. Nelly is wounded in many ways and seeks solace in her own world, often speaking as though she's in an old movie. Lennie too, is wounded by the world, having endured his own hardships. But the three together are able to find pockets of happiness and joy together and - dare I say it - the family that each has been yearning for. Until.....

    As I crept nearer to the end of the book, I accepted my fate - I was going to be up very late that night - there was no way I could possibly put it down without knowing the outcome. O'Donnell manipulates the reader magnificently. We are given subtle insights into the girls' past with each of their narratives that only intensifies the need to know more (and the rapid turning of just one more page) Their situation is appalling, but there is that little glimmer that maybe, just maybe it will be okay. (precipitating more rapid page turning)

    I absolutely adored this book. Every year there a few books that stand out for me, ones that I immediately think of when someone says 'Can you recommend a good read? Definitely - The Death of Bees.

    10 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2013

    Amazing

    One of the best books I've ever read. So raw and wonderfully written.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 24, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I received this book from TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair

    I received this book from TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.  

    The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell hooked me from the start.  I read this book over the course of one day, totally unwilling to put it down.

    The Death of Bees is about Marnie and Nelly, who have buried their not-so-wonderful parents in the backyard of their (potentially project) house.  Marnie is a 15-year-old, super smart but also kind of lazy teen, who enjoy cigarettes, occasional drug use, and being Nelly’s protector.  Nelly is a little “off,” an almost-normal girl, who just seems to have a little bit of social trouble.

    Marnie and Nelly need to keep the secret and survive, especially one the welfare checks are cut off. . . and they do so with the help of their “sexual predator” neighbor, an elderly gay man named Lennie who had one incident that has labeled him for the rest of his life.

    Lennie becomes a surrogate grandfather to the girls, and while he doesn’t know exactly where the parents are, he lets that go to both help protect Nelly and Marnie and also to have their company.

    They all have secrets, and through the telling of The Death of Bees, you realize that sometimes family doesn’t always have to be who you are related to by blood.

    The Death of Bees is a book I recommend.  It’s one you can read quickly, even at over 300 pages.

    Would you cover up a secret if you knew it was for the best interest of someone you loved?

    Thanks for reading,

    Rebecca @ Love at First Book

    7 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2014

    Over 300 pages

    Filled with sex, grown men with 14 year old girls. Incest with very young girls. Gay man with very young prostitutes. 15 year old lesbians. Young girls and their boyfriends. Gay man and his partner, unmarried adults. There is drug use, selling drugs, stealing drug money and alcohal abuse by children. Kids are smoking at 11 years old. There is an over abundance of cursing. There us murder and its cover up, very grizzly. One of the sisters is described as mentaly handicapped. There is child abuse by everyone. This book is well edited. It is set in England. The English words and slang were hard to decipher at times. I did not like this book at all. The ending was okay. I am astonished there were so many good reviews, then I noticed many of them were by game playing kids. This book is for adults only. I found it to be unbelievable and very disturbing. It literally made me sick to my stomach in places.

    AD

    3 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 16, 2013

    It's not a happy book. I didn't expect to like it. But I loved i

    It's not a happy book. I didn't expect to like it. But I loved it; couldn't put it down.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2013

    Very good read

    A jarring and raw plot, but ultimately a book about family. Two girls left on their own when their parents die (don't weep for the parents, they were scum) must find a way to stay together. The people who hurt and help them define the families these girls form. Loved it.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2013

    This is an amazing book. A must read. Lisa O'Donnell is a fantas

    This is an amazing book. A must read. Lisa O'Donnell is a fantastic writer and I'm looking forward to her next book!!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 13, 2013

    Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings Quite an intere

    Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings

    Quite an interesting book and definitely different from most of what I read, this book centers around two sisters who are burying their parents and at the young ages of 15 and 12 are trying to keep up the appearances to avoid being separated.  Their inquisitive neighbor enters the picture and provides another voice to the book with his own issues that he is trying to live with.  

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2013

    Once I began reading, I couldn't put it down. 

    Once I began reading, I couldn't put it down. 

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2013

    I felt this story was far fetched and not believable. Maybe life

    I felt this story was far fetched and not believable. Maybe life is this much different in Scotland that 2 adults could go missing for months and their 2 minor children would be able to hide it from the authorities. Also the narrative used English or Scotish phrases and words so the speech patterns are different than most books I read. For me this was like a fairy tale that goes to the dark side that a teenager who hates her parents might dream up of life on her own.

    2 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2013

    Five stars!

    Loved it

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2014

    Thoroughly Enjoyed!

    A captivating story written in an uncommon style. Each of the main characters contributes in the first person, often providing a first hand perspective of a scene from each of the character's point of view.

    A story of redemption from tragedy, of family love found in the ashes of sorrow, violence and loss. Many wounded characters come together in this tale and in their compassion help to make each other whole.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2014

    Amazing

    Started and finished in just one day.....just could not put this book down! An amazing book about family, and how family comes in many forms. Well writen!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2014

    L

    This was one of the best books that I have read. The story is told in chapters by three characters. The characters will make you wish for better things for them all. A very interesting book and a book you will keep in your thoughts.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2014

    Great read!!!

    Love the characters - all were so distinct! Highly recommended!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2013

    Highly Recommend

    The story is a little depressing and some of the language is offensive. The characters made this a good read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 19, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Good book

    The characters were so full...really enjoyed the story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 29, 2013

    I loved it.  The characters, setting and story line.   While a t

    I loved it.  The characters, setting and story line.   While a tough pill to swallow it was intriguing.   Very interesting read indeed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 10, 2013

    Raw and Original What a strange, but wonderful book! This story

    Raw and Original

    What a strange, but wonderful book! This story was unlike anything I've read before. It was a little dark, disturbing, and vulgar at times, but it made the story raw and original. Marnie and Nelly are wonderful girls that are just trying to stay with each other, the only family they know. Lennie is a grandfather figure to them and loves the girls dearly. This book was great. Marnie is a little rough around the edges, and Nelly, a quiet, soft-spoken girl. They don't seem like they would be close sisters, but after their difficult childhood, they are there for each other. I highly recommend this book to everyone, as long as you don't mind a little vulgarity.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2013

    Loved this book!!!

    Absolutely entertaining as you love and hate the various characters. Would highly recommend this book about two of today's teenagers and their good and bad caretakers. It's a must read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 52 Customer Reviews

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