Journalist May (coauthor, I, Who Did Not Die), a fifth-generation beekeeper in San Francisco, delivers a powerful account of growing up in 1970s California. When her newly separated mother brought May and her brother from Rhode Island to the West Coast to live with her parents, bees were terrifying to the five-year-old. May was forced to grow up fast with an increasingly unstable and neglectful mother. But May bonded and found safety, first with her kind step-grandfather, and later with the bees he kept to produce his prized honey. Nicknamed “The Beekeeper of Big Sur” by his customers, he drove his retrofitted former military bus to tend to his 100 hives along the coast and provided May a fascinating education, teaching her about how bees communicate, eat, and protect their queen. It was through the honeybees, she writes, that “I learned to persevere.” Leaving for college was a turning point for her: it was then that her mother shared her own history of physical abuse at her father’s hands. May learned that, unlike her mother, she needed to look at what she had—her grandfather and a gift for beekeeping—rather than what was missing. May’s chronicle of overcoming obstacles and forging ahead is moving and thoughtful. (Apr.)
A moving memoir… A fascinating and hopeful book of family, bees, and how ‘even when [children] are overwhelmed with despair, nature has special ways to keep them safe.’” —Kirkus Reviews
“[A] sharply visceral memoir.” —Booklist
“Powerful… Moving and thoughtful.” —Publishers Weekly
“Filled with hope, grace, beauty, and wisdom, this book is like warm honey in the sunshine. It beautifully illustrates how nature - even honeybees - can teach and heal us, if only we open our minds and hearts. It's the kind of book that stays with you long after you've finished it—a rare treasure—and you don't have to be a bee lover to be deeply moved by May’s wonderful story. I'm recommending it to everyone I know." —Stacey O’Brien, New York Times bestselling author of Wesley the Owl
"Captivating and surprising.... If you've ever been stung by a bee you will instantly forget the venom and remember forever the sweetness and redemption bees offer in this extraordinary book." —Sy Montgomery, New York Times bestselling author of How To Be A Good Creature and The Soul of an Octopus
"If Meredith May's book was simply an ethology of bees I would devour every word; her prose is tender, thoughtful and transporting. But The Honey Bus is so much more - a memoir of aching loneliness, reckoning and redemption. Beautiful and brave." —Domenica Ruta, New York Times bestselling author of With or Without You: A Memoir
“The wounded feminine, the missing masculine, healed by a relationship with honeybees. An innocent child’s hard won journey to adulthoodclear eyed, often very funny, and agonizingly compassionate. The Honey Bus is all these things and moreso if you’ve ever been a lonely child, or want the world to become a kinder place, here is your book.” —Laline Paull, author of The Bees
"The Honey Bus is a rare treat for true storytelling deeply rooted in science. Everyone will leave this book with much more knowledge about bees and humanity, and the compassion that lives at the intersection of the two. [A] captivating coming of age family story." —Noah Wilson-Rich, Ph.D., author of The Bee: A Natural History
"To read about Meredith May's bee family and her human family is to garner heart strength. A true story in every sense." —Maxine Hong Kingston, bestselling author of The Woman Warrior
A moving memoir that tells the story of how helping her grandfather tend his beehives helped a girl survive a troubled childhood.
Former San Francisco Chronicle reporter May's (co-author: I, Who Did Not Die, 2017) parents separated when she was 5. Her troubled, emotionally distant mother moved her and her younger brother back to the rural home shared by her own mother and her mother's second husband, who tended beehives all over Carmel Valley in California. After the author's mother took to her room and refused to deal with the kids, the author spent most of her nonschool hours with "Grandpa," driving around in his old truck to inspect hives, learning about bees, and eventually assisting him to harvest honey in an old bus he had rigged up just for this purpose. May balances the familiar story of an inadequate mother who veers between neglect and occasional abuse with a clear portrayal of her gratitude for the thoughtful, dependable man who taught her to reach out beyond her toxic nuclear family and make her way into the wider world, encouraging her to go to college and not let herself be defined by her mother's weaknesses. Her love of nature, too, and particularly of the unexpected intricacies of the ways bees behave, has provided her with a sense of peace and perspective. "Over time," she writes, "the more I discovered about the inner world of honeybees, the more sense I was able to make of the outer world of people." May also weaves into the narrative intriguing facts about the social lives and roles of honeybees, and she describes with affection the details of the process of producing honey and the role the beekeeper plays in the lives of bees. While her subject may be honeybees, they serve as a launching point for a tale of self-discovery and the natural world at large.
A fascinating and hopeful book of family, bees, and how "even when [children] are overwhelmed with despair, nature has special ways to keep them safe."
In her first book, journalist and fifth-generation beekeeper May, winner of the PEN America Literary Award for Journalism and short-listed for the Pulitzer Prize, writes of her childhood, learning about life and bees from her beekeeper grandfather. After her parents' divorce, five-year-old May, her younger brother, and her mother move from the east coast to her grandparents' house in California. Once there, her mother abdicates her parental responsibilities, refusing to get out of bed, believing life is treating her unfairly. May's grandmother enables her daughter and is critical of her grandchildren, seeing them only as an obligation. The one bright spot in this dysfunctional household is May's grandfather, a beekeeper who shares his love of his charges with the lonely May, who longs for a family. As she learns about bees and their lives, May comes to admire their cooperation, loyalty, hard work, and bravery, taking those lessons with her as she moves forward, attending college and becoming a writer. VERDICT An engrossing memoir of a sad yet resilient child who was saved by an empathetic grandfather and hives of bees. It will be relished by fans of memoirs and those who enjoy learning the details of bees and beekeeping.—Sue O'Brien, Downers Grove, IL