The Death of Bees

By Lisa O’Donnell

This is quite a unique coming of age novel. The story tells of two sisters, Marnie and younger sister Nelly, living in a Glasgow, Scotland housing project.

Finding their selfish, irresponsible parents Izzy and Gene, dead, the girls decide to hide the fact by burying them in the backyard. Their hope is to wait for fifteen year old Marnie to turn sixteen so can legally care for Nelly. Marnie had been the responsible one in the family since she was a toddler, so it seems the natural thing for them to do.

Marnie does have issues, however. Growing up tough, neglected, and exposed to more than a rough existence, she has developed many problems of her own. While she has always been tough, she now finds herself vulnerable. Younger Nelly is dealing with autism but is actually now maturing.

Lonely neighbor Lennie finds the girls alone and decides to try to help them. Having many of his own life burdens and regrets, he believes by reaching out to help the girls that perhaps he can right some wrongs. An unusual “family” evolves.

The novel is a very interesting, fast paced novel. It is gritty and sometimes a bit difficult in its subject matter, but well written and believable. Parents can put their offspring in difficult situations, forcing them to grow up before their time. Sometimes “families” form out of pain and need. Sometimes we redeem ourselves in unexpected ways.

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