The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell

Title: The Death of Bees
Author: Lisa O’Donnell

Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / Glasgow / Sisters / Orphans / Multiple Narrators / Mystery / Teenage Heroine - Not YA )
Publisher/Publication Date: Harper (1/2/2013)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Loved! Adored!
Did I finish?: I inhaled this one!
One-sentence summary: Sisters Marnie and Nelly are alone after their parents die, and their everyday life is a struggle -- to survive, to not be found out, to keep away from those who want to harm them.

Do I like the cover?: It's gorgeous -- love the colors, the silhouette-y style, the font -- perfect.

I'm reminded of...: Jane Harris, Sadie Jones

First line: Today is Christmas Eve.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy -- read this stat!

Why did I get this book?: I couldn't say -- the cover probably. I am *so* glad I did!

Review: This is me gesticulating wildly as I try to express to you how great this book is. This also means this review is going to be kind of meaningless because I'm still gasping for words.

Let me share the first page:
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.
Awesome, right?

That is Marnie speaking, and the story is split between her and her younger sister Nelly (who is 11ish, I think, at the start). Those first three or four sections almost undid me but I couldn't stop. They were dark, gross, grim, horrible, and deeply fascinating.

Frightening, too: O’Donnell isn't painting a world of demon children or dystopic society; she's portraying contemporary Glasgow and the hard realities many children face. Marnie's parents are criminally negligent; they're drug addicts, alcoholics. Abusive in a variety of ways. Utterly unconcerned for their children, right up to their deaths. Marnie, well aware of what will happen to them if it gets out that their parents are dead, does what she can to care for her sister, Nelly, who is odd, speaks with an archaic kind of speech, and plays the violin like a prodigy.

Eventually a third voice joins in, that of their elderly neighbor Lennie, observing from the sidelines -- a welcome adult voice for me, at least, since I kept biting my nails and sweating what might happen to Marnie and Nelly. (I fell in love with those girls from that first page. Marnie is rough and hard and damaged, and I just want to give her a hug and Nelly is so super odd and weird, and I just want to give her a hug. No matter their choices, I understood them and related to them and really really really cared for them.)

Speaking of rough, hard, and damaged, this book might need a trigger warning, especially for those who are uncomfortable with implied sexual abuse, adults having sex with underage girls, and drug use. (Or, if you're the parent of a young teen, this might give you the jibblies.) Still, I never felt O’Donnell was being gratuitous or shocking for the sake of the shock -- Marnie's world is all-too real for many children.

I will admit, there was one moment in my marathon reading when I thought 'I just can't take any more misery' but O’Donnell holds the story together and pushes the boundary of misery without breaking it, and the end wrapped up neatly and satisfactorily.

I can't stop talking about this book and woe be anyone who makes eye-contact with me over the next few days, because I'll be babbling about it non-stop. Give this one a read as I think it is worth the buzz and then come back and tell me what you think!

*** *** ***


I'm thrilled to offer a copy of The Death of Bees to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/CA readers, ends 2/1.


  1. I have heard so many good things about this - I would love a copy! :--)

    1. In this case, I think the buzz is worth it!

  2. Replies
    1. I found it not as hard as, say, Salvage the Bones, in which I genuinely wanted to die at moments -- this is dark and could be depressing save for the fact that Marnie is so freakin' fabu and the story ends on a great note/good conclusion.

  3. Glad you loved it. I did too! Thank God for the dog, bringing a little comedic action.

    1. Yes! So cute. I imagined him as one of those little white terriers -- I forget their breed -- but so cute and sweet.

  4. It sounds like a fantastic book. I definitely want to read it!

  5. I'm glad you enjoyed this one so much. I'll add it to the TBR, I would love to read it.

  6. I saw this one a long time ago, but it never caught my interest until the two reviews I read this past week, yours being one of them. How did this one get by me?

    1. I'm soooooooooooooo grateful I got on the tour -- really reall fabulous read!

  7. While dark, it seems to have made quite and impression.
    Happy reading,
    Brandi @ Blkosiner’s Book Blog

  8. I am hoping to read this one soon, as I have seen it everywhere, and I have been bitten by the hype bug. It does indeed sound like a dark tale, but sometimes I relish just that. Excellent review today, Audra! Your love for this one just settles it for me!

  9. Sounds like a unique premise for a story -- and having been to Glasgow, I'm even more intrigued. I have a feeling it'll be rough in spots, but sounds like it's worth it!

  10. Nice review.

    Silver's Reviews

  11. yeah so the gesticulating wildly got my attention. That LOUD DING is the sound of yet ANOTHER on my wishlist.

  12. This sounds like a fantastic book! Thanks for the review and the giveaway.

  13. I really want to read this one. It sounds a very difficult read, but that so many people recommend it signifies it as an important one. Good to read your review!

  14. Just started this one and thought you'd like to know (you super do, I'm sure) that I'm reading it aloud to myself with accents and everything. Winning!

  15. I adore that cover! I can't wait to meet Marnie & Nelly and find out more about them. :)

  16. Everyone is being so supportive of this book. I can't tell you how grateful I am for your kind words. I'm gushing over.

    Best Wishes
    Lisa O'Donnell author

  17. I loved this one too and need to review it. So good!

  18. I'm totally intrigued by the premise of this book and your wild gesticulating has me putting it at the top of my TBR list - I can't wait to dive in!

    Thanks for being on the tour. I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.

  19. I have it on reserve at the library. After reading your review, I can't wait until a copy is available so I can get my reading "mojo" back. Two books so far this year...this flu zaps not only your body, but your brain (dehydration).

  20. Okay. I thought I wanted to read this, and then I saw mixed reviews and wasn't sure. Now you share the first paragraph, and all I can think is "Yes, please!" This one is going on my Wish List!

  21. I read this solely because it came in my Powell's Indispensable box and was pretty surprised how much I liked it considering all of the Not Happy things in it. Captivating and well done.

    Irene (Bear Hunts in Alaska)

  22. Audra, thanks for your additions to this month's library. Cheers


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