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.
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.
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.