Before I finished "Hour of the Bees" I received this text from my extraordinary volunteer, Mrs. Warland:
She couldn't be more right. Right about the wow-factor and so right about the tissues.
Rising 6th grader, Carol and her family go to the desert from Albuquerque for the summer with the intent to pack up and move her grandfather, Serge, "a crotchety, demented, thousand-year old man" off the family ranch to an assisted living home. While Serge suffers from dementia, Carol struggles to figure out so much more. There in the openness of the ranch, Carol discovers that she is "...nothing...less than a smudge on the pages of the world's history, tiny on the number line of forever. The lost sheep, Alta, Serge's dementia, even junior high -- everything seems laughably small."
The language in this book is incredibly rich and as beautiful as a New Mexico sunrise. I cannot believe that this is Lindsay Eager's first book. I can't even imagine what other "Once upon a times" are in her future.
"Death hangs on Serge like a wet towel, tangled in his salty-white hair, dripping down his shoulders..."
"Stories don't end," Serge says. "They just turn into new beginnings." And this book, my friends, is one story you will not want to end. Beware also to those around you, for if they don't give you time and space to relish in this novel tell them it will become "the witching hour."
This is one of those books that is not strong in just one story element. Not only is the setting vividly described and plot riveting, there is strong character development--a supportive and hard working mom, a dad who is trying to come to terms with his past in the present, an older teenage sister, Alta (need I say more?), an adorable baby brother, an adventurous grandmother and Grandpa Serge. Carol grows so much in this one summer that what she feared in June just doesn't seem important any more. "I don't think I've gotten braver; I think I've just found other things to be scared of than tripping in the lunchroom or walking down the wrong hallway."
The magic in this book seems so real that I almost forgot to mention it. It's there alright but weaved in so well that this book could define the magical realism genre.
We had a great book group last night. The sun was setting. We were four people in a vast open parking lot munching on chips and salsa. Close your eyes and you could almost believe we were having a snack on the ranch while waiting for Mom's delicious Mexican themed dinner to be ready. And yes, Mrs. Warland joined us!
Three kids, three favorite characters:
"Rosa because she is adventurous."
"Serge because he has great stories."
And Carol "because no matter what she'll never give up on Serge."
Mrs. Warland chimed in on how much she admired Mom.
And finally, I asked for words to describe the book:
...with two strong themes: "Live life to the fullest and be grateful for what you have." Personally, I can't even tell you how I truly learned those lessons this summer. Thank you, Lindsay Eager, for the beautiful reminder.