Tell Me Something True – A Visit With Lisa O’Donnell

Today we introduce a new theme that will take the place of our beloved Literary First Love series. We promised new things for 2013 and part of that is taking a closer, more personal look at the story behind the novels we feature here on She Reads. We are convinced that every story, at its heart, is true–whether it be inspired by historical events, drawn from the life of its author, or ripped from the headlines. So for the remainder of this year we will ask our guests to tell us something true about the book they have written.

Up first is Lisa O’Donnell, author of The Death Of Bees. We’ve got a copy of the novel up for grabs today, so leave a comment to be entered.

Lisa O’Donnell

Update: the winner of this giveaway is Elisabeth. She has been notified by email. Thanks to everyone who entered! Check back soon for more giveaways!

I remember this black and white picture of my father. He was 17 years old at the time and on the back of milk float. He was a delivery boy. His arms wide open, laughing at the camera, his whole life in front of him. A year later he was married to my mother. She was 16 years of age and about to have his baby. She was wearing a purple dress. There are no pictures of that. They had eloped if you want to be romantic about it or they had simply run from all good advice and direction. Maybe there wasn’t any for these teens and they were teens. Every one assures me there was plenty. My mother assures me there was nothing but anger and disappointment and who wouldn’t have run from that. Children generally do.

My parents were so very young and like Izzy and Gene they were clueless, careless and often times neglectful.   It’s a sad thing for a child to become trapped in someone else’s frustrated youth but this is how it was for my sister and I and it’s how it is for a lot of children growing up. They see too much and before their time.

I wrote The Death of Bees for all children forced to take control of their lives but I wanted to show their strength despite the absence of childhood. I also wanted to write about bravery, we live in a world where children are also courageous and maybe it’s unfortunate the things they endure to know such courage but it’s how it is sometimes. I created all kinds of challenges and dangers for Marnie and Nelly to overcome and they do, lots of children do, though the truth is they shouldn’t have to.   I gave Marnie and Nelly intelligence to give them a future, Lennie to love them and Vlado to watch over them as my own grandparents watched over my sister and I.   I wonder sometimes what would have happened to us if they hadn’t. I’m so grateful they did. It was the light at the end of the tunnel.

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.

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18 Responses to Tell Me Something True – A Visit With Lisa O’Donnell

  1. Susan Coster January 14, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Sounds like a fascinating resd!

  2. Robyn Rochelle E. January 14, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    What a great format to speak to a cultural hardship. I believe this type of thing happens way more often than I realized as a younger woman first married with my three children. Until shock that we were no longer wanted, the hardship of single parenting, and like-minded ‘never-give-up-trust-in-God’ friendships formed, I thought the world was a pretty predictable place. Now often on the mission field I hear/see/experience the brokenness.

  3. Elisabeth January 14, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    This is definitely a book I want to read! Thanks for the giveaway!

  4. Gwyn January 14, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    wow, this book sounds really good, I will have to have my book club read this one!!!

  5. josey bozzo January 14, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    ooooooh, this one is definately going on my list for this year.

  6. Pam January 14, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Sounds like a great book and one that my bookclub could read.

  7. Linda January 14, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    This book sounds like a great read. It also sounds like it is very close to my real story in some ways. Thanks for the give a way.

  8. Katherine Jones January 14, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Just read a great review of this book on Book Magnet. Would love to read it for myself!

  9. shannon brown January 14, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Oh my goodness this sounds so good!!! I can not wait to read this!!!!

  10. Becky S January 14, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Sounds like one I won’t be able to put down!

  11. Gean January 14, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I enjoyed the background story – have this one on my list to read – would love to win a copy – sign me up for the drawing!

  12. Paula Dolin January 14, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I would love to read this book – thanks for the chance to win a copy.

  13. Susan G. January 14, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    So sad there are so many true-life stories about children, like Lisa’s story. She is a survivor,”more than a conqueror”. I pray there are always people like ‘Lennie’ to rescue these children.
    Blessings to Lisa!
    Susan G.

  14. Polly Schneider January 14, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    This boo sounds truly heart breaking and exciting at the same time. I would love to win a copy of it. Thanks for the opportunity.

  15. Kathy January 14, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    It would be great to read this riveting tale of survival by two young girls. It would help me as well since I am writing a story about a young girl in an alcoholic home who desires freedom and love despite the lack of both. Thanks for opportunity to have a chance to read this novel.

  16. Heather Marsten January 14, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    Wow, what a powerful story. It is sad, but in this day and age so many young children have to survive – life is tough. I know that kind of struggle – having to appear normal in a world that is definitely not. My story would be different from your protagonists, but I appreciated the adults that took some time with me. Made all the difference in the world. I am adding your book to my book wish list. I’m looking forward to reading it.
    HM at HVC dot RR dot COM

  17. Melissa Crytzer Fry January 14, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    Wow… what an image — 16 and 17, pregnant, and eloping. I often think how different things were even for my parents (married at 18 and 19, and having their first child when they were 20). This story sounds amazing; indeed, I am always so inspired by the resilience and fortitude of children.

  18. Deb January 15, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    This sounds like it would be a fascinating story. I’d love to win it. I’m also looking forward to this new feature for the year.

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