Book Review: Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell


Rating: 5 / 5

Marnie and her younger sister, Nelly, are completely on their own.  They have just buried their parents, Gene and Izzy, in their backyard and planted lavender in an attempt to mask the smell.  Nobody knows that Gene and Izzy have died, and since Marnie does not want to be separated from Nelly, they don’t tell anyone, banking on the fact that shortly, Marnie will be considered an adult and can care for herself and Nelly.  Their next door neighbor, Lennie, knows that something is amiss, but he’s also got secrets of his own that he’s hiding.  He does, however, decide to be their unofficial guardian.  However, as time goes by, more questions arise as to where Gene and Izzy could be, and what should be done with Marnie and Nelly’s living conditions.

I’m pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed this book.  The writing style and the shifting points of view were brilliant.  Nelly is quite the character, and her insights and perspective are both shocking and comical.  On the one hand Marnie is mature for her age, having to take care of herself and her sister for years.  The weight of that alone has profoundly shaped her view of the world, and her no-nonsense attitude and tell-it-like-it-is mentality are sharp and poignant.  Although Marnie and Nelly are only separated by a few years, their voices are distinct and engaging.  One line from Marnie really stood out for me: “Their parents are accountants and lawyers and mine are buried in the yard.” (pg 51)  It is a very dark story, but the humor was top-notch.  I was pretty much hooked from the prologue, and wasn’t disappointed.  I liked how O’Donnell shows how each sister interpreted different events in their lives, and it really showcased their personalities.  Lennie, Marnie, and Nelly are all flawed, and yet all are endearing in their own way.  The panoply of characters Marnie and Nelly must navigate through is shocking, outrageous, funny, and heartbreaking.

I didn’t know how the book would end, and part of me didn’t want it to.  I was rooting for the girls to have a happy and safe ending.  I wouldn’t suggest starting this book unless you have a lot of time to devote to reading it since it’s bound to pull you in from page one.

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