The Death of Bees: A Novel by Lisa O’Donnell

Death of Bees - WM

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The Death of Bees is my next review from my Rainbow Cover Reading Challenge.  The cover makes it look kind of nice with the pretty blues and purples, but let me tell you–this is one macabre book!

Two sisters have suffered from their parents neglect and abuse throughout their young lives.  Until one day when their parents die and the girls must learn to fend for themselves.  Not wanting to be put into foster care, they bury their parents and try to get on with life as normal.

Their neighbor, a kindly but ostracized man, sees that the girls need help and he becomes like a grandfather to them.  However, people start asking questions about where their parents are and they are in danger of being separated from the only person who has ever truly nurtured them.

I really liked this book, though it is very macabre and quite raw.  The chapters alternate between being narrated by the sisters and their neighbor, which gives an interesting view of events.  The younger sister, Nelly, has a humorous way of talking which lightens the mood even when talking about horrible things.

A couple of favorite quotes:

“She’s a nasty b**** this Fiona Mullen and is unforgivably rude to Lennie, who quite rightly tells her to go f*** herself while reminding her there is no law prohibiting him from caring for two abandoned children, but this doesn’t matter to her.  He is deemed an inappropriate guardian, whereas my parents who neglected us every day of our waking lives were always deemed appropriate guardians on account of the DNA issue.  No one wants to separate children from their parents, even when their parents are f*****-up delinquents.” (p.256)

“Birds keep chirping and music keeps playing.  Life continues as another life ebbs away.

We have seen death before, Marnie and I, a mountain of ice melting over time, drops of water freezing at your core reminding you every day of that which has vanished, but the despair we know today is a sadness sailing sorrow through every bone and knuckle.” (p. 268)

This book is based in Ireland and has Irish slang and word usage.  That could be a challenge for those who are unused to it.  Also, it incorporates themes of drugs, violence, sex, and homosexuality.  If you’re very uncomfortable with those things, you might want to skip this book.

Possible Objections:

  • Lots of bad language
  • Violence & gore
  • Sexual stuff

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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Precious – Movie 2009

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Last night I watched Precious, the movie based on Sapphire’s novel entitled Push.  I won’t tell you too much about the plot, but comment more on how the movie compares to the book.  As stated in my book review, this is a difficult story to digest.  It’s very raw–the language, the subject matter, and the delivery. I was somewhat scared to see the film version, fearing that seeing the visual representation of this story would be too intense to stomach.

The first thing that needs addressing is how they handled Precious being sexually assaulted by her dad.  This could have been truly terrifying to see on the screen.  I like that they chose to film it the way they did, with just a few clips of related imagery and then quickly breaking away to Precious’ daydream (which is how she coped).  The assault didn’t get too much screen time (certainly not nearly as much coverage as it did in the book) which helps to cement the idea that this story is really about who Precious is as a person.  She isn’t defined by what happens to and around her.

Which brings us to the actress who played Precious, Gabourey Sidibe.  This young woman did an amazing job playing a very difficult role.  I was convinced that she was Precious.  The range of emotions and situations her role encompassed was rather staggering.

Precious’ mother was a truly despicable character, and I’m blown away by how masterfully Mo’Nique acted out her part.  In particular, I was surprised by her breakdown at the end in front of the social worker.  It helped me to understand her character better, though it still didn’t make me like her any better.  (This was also one of the worst, as in most uncomfortable, scenes I’ve ever had to watch in a movie.  I’m glad that they kept her mother’s sexual assault out of the limelight for almost all of the move.  It was just too much to handle, I felt.)  As a side note, the overly heartfelt and apologetic confession/apology of her mother’s was mostly fabricated for the movie.  Precious never got any such heartfelt apology in the book that would help her gain some closure.  They also prematurely returned Mongo to her, but let’s not split hairs.

There was a bit of free license taken with the movie, but I don’t think any of it materially detracted from the story.  You will still get the same raw, intense story that is folded between the pages of the book.

I would highly suggest that you watch the interviews with Sapphire and the movie’s director in the bonus features to learn more about how this story came to be.  It is eye-opening.

Because of the intense and awful things contained in this story, I recommend it to adults.  Be forewarned–you will be uncomfortable!

Possible Objections:

  • A lot of bad language
  • Violence
  • Sexual assault of a child

Rated: R

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

 

Until next time…

Lori

 

OTHER PUSH/PRECIOUS POSTS:

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Push: A Novel by Sapphire

Push

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Here’s the first book from my Rainbow Cover Reading Challenge!

I feel like I just got run over by a semi.  Push is so intense that you will probably need some time to recover from the story, just like I did.  If you can make it through, you will find an amazing story of healing and restoration.

This is the story of a young girl named Precious, told as she attempts to cope with and eventually leave an extremely abusive home.  She has been horrifically abused by both her mother and father since she was a small child.  As she gets a bit older and gains some confidence from the moral support she receives in her alternative classroom, Precious begins to stand up for herself.  She is able to escape her abusive situation and begin to make a new life and future for her son and herself.

I’ve only scratched the surface of what this book is about, but I’ve said enough to give you the general idea.  I cannot fully describe the book because it is so uniquely its own.  If you want to know all the details, you’ll just have to read it for yourself.

Now that I’ve finished Push, I’m glad that I did.  It’s not a book that I will ever want to revisit, though.  As a foster mom, I feel like it’s given me some amazing insight into what foster children may have faced, where their thinking and reactions might come from, and how a messed up home environment can cripple a child in all areas of their life.  For anyone who has to deal with foster children or children who have been abused on a regular basis, this book would make a good case study.

As a side note, I went in search of more information about the author, wanting to know if this story was purely made up or if it had some basis in her past experiences.  It turns out that Sapphire had been a remedial reading teacher in Harlem and started writing this story back then.  She met young, overweight black women who felt awful about themselves; she had a student who admitted that she had had children by her father.  This isn’t all made up people–it’s based in somebody’s reality.

I would only recommend this book to adults who have a good reason to read it, because of the huge amount of inappropriate stuff it contains.  I told my husband that as soon as I finished the book it would be going right out the door.  I did not want my kids getting their hands on it.

Possible Objections:

  • A ton of swearing, racial epithets, derogatory terms
  • A lot of sexually explicit material and language
  • Violence
  • Adult themes

 Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

 

Until next time…

Lori

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