The Death of Bees (Hardcover)
January 2013 Indie Next List
“Beginning with two children who bury their parents in their garden, The Death of Bees had me hooked from page one. Streetwise teen Marnie and her younger, socially awkward, violin prodigy sister find their parents dead and attempt to cover up their deaths to avoid foster care, with both help and hindrance from some surprising sources. Told from the point of view of multiple characters, this lively, suspenseful, and darkly hilarious tale transfixed me from gruesome start to wonderfully satisfying finish. Brilliant, delightful, and thought provoking!”
— Carol Schneck Varner, Schuler Books & Music, Okemos, MI
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.
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. Besides, it's only a year until Marnie will be considered an adult and can legally take care of them both.
As the New Year comes and goes, Lennie, the old man next door, realizes that his young neighbors are alone and need his help. Or does he need theirs? Lennie takes them in—feeds them, clothes them, protects them—and something like a family forms. But soon enough, 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 fierce 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.
“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.”
-Booklist (starred review)
“The sisters and Lennie narrate alternating chapters, moving the story along at a fast clip....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.”
-Publishers Weekly (boxed review)
“An unusual coming-of-age novel that features two sisters who survive years of abuse and neglect....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.”
“The Death of Bees is completely addictive. A beautiful and darkly funny story of two sisters building a fantasy within a nightmare.”
-Alison Espach, author of The Adults
“The Death of Bees is compelling stuff, engaging the emotions from the first page and quickly becoming almost impossible to put down.”
“As the action reaches a feverish climax…dark comedy is replaced by nerve-shredding tension…the reader is thoroughly caught up in the emotional trials and tribulations of two unlikely heroines….Warm without being cozy, explicit without being shocking, and emotive without being schmaltzy…a powerful coming-of-age tale…”
“This vibrantly-imagined novel, by turns hilarious and appalling, is hard to resist.”
-Daily Mail (London)
“Mixing The Ladykillers with Irvine Welsh’s The Acid House… O’Donnell adeptly balances caustic humour and compassion.”
“The Death of Bees steadily draws you into its characters’ emotional lives.”
“The most original and incredible piece of writing I’ve come across in years.”
-Helen Fitzgerald, author of Dead Lovely
“Warm without being cozy, explicit without being shocking, and emotive without being schmaltzy . . . a powerful coming-of-age tale.”