Happy Friday! I hope everyone had a fabulous holiday and time off! For our last book of 2014 we read The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell. I didn't really know what to expect and I'm glad I finished it out even though the first part had me putting it down and coming back to it.
Description: 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.
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.
1. What was your initial reaction reading these few paragraphs? What did it tell you about the person who wrote it? How does the prologue set the tone for the story that follows?
I am a big ole fail because I did not process the initial information beyond she was fifteen and burying her parents in the backyard. I completely missed the Christmas Eve part and that it was her birthday. It probably would have affected my perspective on the countdown throughout the book to her 16th birthday!
2. What does "The Death of Bees" signify?
3. What were your first impressions of Marnie and Nelly? Did your impressions of the sisters change over the course of the novel?
4. Contrast Marnie and Nelly. How do they see themselves, each other, and the world around them? What accounts for the things they see differently? How would each fare without the other? Marnie explains that Nelly is "just not like other people and can't fake it, which is more than can be said about me. I've been faking it my whole life." Why does she believe this about herself? How is Marnie faking it?
I think it funny and so true how two people can look at a situation differently. Like how Nelly never suspected about Lennie's sexuality or the noises she heard. Marnie was definitely a realist and Nelly was quite unique in her appearance/dialogue and actions.
5. How do their parents' deaths affect the girls? Is Marnie right to keep their deaths a secret? Why does she do this? Are her instincts about adults and the system correct?
6. Think about their parents, Gene and Izzy. What kind of parents—and people—were they? Do you think they loved their daughters? If so, why did they behave as they did? What did the girls learn about life from them? How much was Izzy's background influential in who she was as an adult? Why are Marnie and Nelly so different from their parents?
7. If it were possible, do you think we should have laws determining who can have children and who cannot? Why do some people have children when they cannot or do not want to take care of them?
I definitely feel that some people should not be entrusted in the welfare of a child. There needs to be classes on what IS APPROPRIATE and normal for children to do and what is expected in the care of a child. We make people jump through more hoops to operate vehicles than produce children.
Blood does not make a parent/guardian. I have seen far too many children whose lives WOULD be better in different circumstances. However, I do think everyone should be able to parent how they think is best but in all things a child's well-being is most important. Which I think sometimes people forget. It's not about you, it's about your kid.
8. What role does Vlado play in Marnie's life? Describe their relationship. What do they offer each other? What do you think of Vlado? Is he a good person? We hear about Vlado before we meet him. How does what we first learn about him color our impressions?
9. The novel is told from the viewpoints of three characters: Marnie, Nelly, and Lennie. Why do you think the author chose this form of narration? How does it add to the unfolding story? How might it be different if it had been told from one of the three viewpoints?
10. Would you say the book had a happy ending? What do you think will happen to the girls in the future? What about Robert and Vlado?
I think it had a predictable overall ending that is as happy as they are going to get for awhile. It would be interesting to read a sequel with their life after they got to the cottage. In my happy ending for them Robert doesn't come looking and Mick gives up. And by the way, how does Mick randomly show up on the night they are going to disappear? And really? Was Robert just chilling outside every night until they tried running away? And why wouldn't they leave to run away during the school day when they have a legit head start? Was it the money and clothes? I don't know, it wrapped up super quick.
I hope you will join us in 2014! Thanks for all who participated in 2013!