Marnie, age 15, and her younger sister Nelly, 12, have been neglected and abused their whole lives. Their circumstances seem inescapable, and seemingly nothing can save them.
But then something happens to change their lives, beginning with the death of their father, followed soon after by their mother’s death. And even when the girls bury them in the backyard, how they died is only revealed in bits and pieces throughout the story; the secret is one the girls plan to keep forever, even as the obstacles arise and the threat of exposure hovers nearby. Exposure would mean the descent of the social workers who could separate the sisters and defeat their efforts to create their own family.
Will their neighbor Lenny’s support keep the girls on an even keel indefinitely? What does the sudden appearance of a never-before known maternal grandfather mean for their fledgling little family? What will ultimately bring the secrets to light and turn the forming connections inside out?
Every struggle tests the bonds between the sisters, but in the end, their connections trump the efforts of the outsiders who threaten them. A beautiful testament to the idea of family, no matter what form it takes, The Death of Bees: A Novel is unforgettable. Four stars.