Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar. buy it HERE
I discovered this book whilst doing a search for contemporary YA reads on Amazon. Marketed for grades 4-8 I was nevertheless drawn to this book after reading the synopsis, which reads:
What does it mean to be fully alive? Magic blends with reality in a stunning coming-of-age novel about a girl, a grandfather, wanderlust, and reclaiming your roots.
Things are only impossible if you stop to think about them . . . .
‘While her friends are spending their summers having pool parties and sleepovers, twelve-year-old Carolina — Carol — is spending hers in the middle of the New Mexico desert, helping her parents move the grandfather she’s never met into a home for people with dementia. At first, Carol avoids prickly Grandpa Serge. But as the summer wears on and the heat bears down, Carol finds herself drawn to him, fascinated by the crazy stories he tells her about a healing tree, a green-glass lake, and the bees that will bring back the rain and end a hundred years of drought. As the thin line between magic and reality starts to blur, Carol must decide for herself what is possible — and what it means to be true to her roots. Readers who dream that there’s something more out there will be enchanted by this captivating novel of family, renewal, and discovering the wonder of the world.’
So Carol’s summer is going to be a tough one: Meeting a Grandfather she barely remembers, being in the middle of nowhere for the full summer, and doing everything she can to keep Grandpa calm at all costs.
So in the midst of it all, as the desert homestead land is dying in one of the worst droughts in decades. Grandpa says that when the Bees come back they will bring water. Carol thinks this is grandpa’s dementia talking; surely water will bring the Bees, not the other way around? So when Carol begins seeing Bees hanging around her, she daren’t mention it to Grandpa, so as not to upset him. But she can see Bees in a desert!
Obviously the book was an easy read, being aimed at twelve year olds, so I flew through it in one sitting. However, what I wasn’t counting on was that after reading this book it would linger with me afterwards.
Eagar’s writing style is beautiful and lyrical and flows effortlessly. Dementia is a subject that requires addressing delicately, and Eagar manages to achieve this by giving Grandpa a quiet dignity and intelligence despite his mind-crippling illness.
One of the reasons I think this book resonated with me so strongly was that at a similar age I met my step-grandmother for the first time and under similar circumstances.
She moved into our home after being unable to cope any longer due to her age (eighty-three) and later, the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. I only knew her for little under two years; yet, in such a short space of time she became my closest friend.
Now I was a chatty kid and had plenty of friends my own age, but something about ‘Aunt Jane’ (as I was instructed to call her) just ‘clicked’ with me and I found myself wanting to spend more and more time with her.
Reading ‘Hour of the Bees’ brought back so many childhood memories for me. I felt myself tearing up over some little description or other, and feeling that this author must have experienced this situation for herself. The special relationship between Carol and her Grandpa touched me deeply. It is so unexpected and unlikely, yet their love transcended across the decades and they bonded deeply. The depth surprised Carol, and she began to question her priorities in life and reassessed the importance of the things she had previously held dear.
Grandpa has never left his homestead, yet has lived a life that many of us could only dream of. He has known true love, great health and the friendships of many. He now has to leave the only home that he has every known, and of course the prospect terrifies him.
Added to this his son, Carol’s father has little patience with him due to old wounds that we learn about later in the story, and he just wants the homestead cleaned up and put on the market so he can continue on with his own life.
With an interesting mix of characters, and the confined space of a small farmhouse there is, of course, no shortage of conflict. And here Eagar is masterful in her ability to show everybody’s point of view fairly.
I read a couple of books each week and this one is one that shines. It has now been added to my short list of ‘favorite books’ and easily gets a five star rating from me.
Please, whatever your age, pick up this book from this amazing debut author. I’m certain we will be hearing much more from her in the future. If I had a crystal ball, I would predict that this book would win many awards- it certainly merits it.
lots of love,