Hour of the Bees
By Lindsay Eagar
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 978 1 4063 6815 4
What does it take for an YA novel to reach the dizzying heights of mass appreciation and the lasting recognition needed to become a classic? Word of mouth and good reviews help any book start up the ladder of success, but it’s time and readers that push a novel further into classic territory.
Lindsay Eagar’s Hour of the Bees is a spellbinding tale that deserves a chance to become a modern classic. Tightly plotted and elegantly written, this is an exceptional debut novel that manages to be both inspirational yet authentic at the same time.
Carol, a 12 year-old Mexican-American girl lives in Albuquerque in New Mexico. She hangs out with her friends, doing what 12-year-olds do, but suddenly her life is thrown into chaos as her dad uproots the family and moves them to a lonely and run-down sheep farm in the middle of the desert.
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Carol’s grandfather Serge owns this dying ranch where her dad was brought up. But now Serge is coping with the first stages of dementia, and his family has descended on the farm to sell the land and move Serge to a nursing home. It’s going to be a difficult summer for the whole family, and tensions are going to rise along with the desert heat.
Carol cannot believe her bad luck, and only feels worse when she gets daily texts from her classmates enjoying the summer holiday back in the city.
But over the course of several heartfelt conversations with her supposedly ailing grandfather, Carol finds herself forming a bond with him. He starts to tell her stories about the good old days of the sheep ranch, and the community that once surrounded it.
He tells her how the bees used to hum in the air while visiting the desert flowers on the banks of the lake. It was all so beautiful. The lake has long since dried up, and the bees have vanished. But Serge believes they will return one day, and bring water back to the parched land.
This intergenerational tale weaves mystical elements into the coming-of-age journey that Carol undergoes. Readers are with her every step as she struggles with low confidence and self-perception, her selfish sister, and the lessons Serge teaches her about her roots and the power of family.
Hour of the Bees is surely a YA classic-in-the-making. A highly recommended read for teens and anyone else who appreciates classy, literary fiction.
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