The next novel by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Tinkers, in which a father's grief over the loss of his daughter threatens to derail his life.
Powerful, brilliantly written, and deeply moving Paul Harding has, in Enon, written a worthy successor to Tinkers, a debut which John Freeman on NPR called "a masterpiece." Drawn always to the rich landscape of his character's inner lives, here, through the first person narrative of Charlie Crosby (grandson to George Crosby of Tinkers), Harding creates a devastating portrait of a father trying desperately to come to terms with family loss.
‘I felt like a ghost, listless and confined, wandering in a house that had been mine a century ago, relegated to examining the details of the lives of strangers.’
Enon opens in tragedy. Charlie Crosby misses a life changing phone call from his wife: his only daughter has been hit by a car and died. His struggle to deal with the grief is bad enough but shortly after his wife leaves him as well. Without his wife and daughter in his life he has lost all reason for living. He becomes the very epitome of pain and suffering. He has no one to share this grief with so he internalizes everything and by doing so sends himself on a downward spiral.
Enon is imbued with a suffocating grief that threatens to swallow you whole. The story meanders down a twisting path, lacking any linear pattern but instead forging it’s own self-destructive path. I understand the purpose behind the lack of a solid plot as I felt it was representative of Charlie’s mindset, but I was still anticipating something monumental to happen. A moment of major significance. But it just didn’t happen. The first person point of view gave the book a very monotone feel despite how emotional you would expect it to be.
I think this is a story that will speak to many people, but it almost seems like something you need to be going through personally in order to fully understand, appreciate and relate. Enon portrays just how all-consuming grief can be, especially when you allow it to overtake you.
A riveting, brilliantly written debut novel-a coming-of-age story with the strong voice and powerful resonance of Swamplandia! and The Secret Life of Bees—in which two young sisters attempt to hold the world at bay after the mysterious death of their parents.
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 Hazlehurst housing estate isn’t grand, they do have each other. Besides, it’s only one 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? But he’s not the only one who suspects something isn’t right. Soon, the sisters’ friends, their other neighbors, the authorities, and even Gene’s nosy drug dealer begin to ask questions. As one lie leads to another, dark secrets about the girls’ family surface, creating complications that threaten to tear them apart.
Written with fierce sympathy and beautiful precision, told in alternating voices, The Death of Bees is an enchanting, grimly comic tale of three lost souls who, unable to answer for themselves, can answer only for each other.
“Today is Christmas Eve. Today is my birthday. Today I am 15. Today I buried my parents in the backyard. Neither of them were beloved.”
Launching right into the heart of the story, Marnie and Nelly bury their parents in the backyard after their father suffocates and their mothers hangs herself. With both parents gone the girls are left completely alone. Living in the slums of Glasgow, Scotland, Marnie makes a hasty decision to bury them both in the garden in order to avoid being placed into foster care. When Marnie turns 16 she can legally care for her sister so they just need to stay under the radar for one year. But between their curious but concerned neighbor and his inquisitive dog with a penchant for digging in their garden, a drug dealer their father owes money to, and a grandfather that wants to find his daughter their carefully constructed web of lies slowly begins to deteriorate.
Having lived with their parents misconduct their entire lives, finding their dead bodies didn’t have the emotional impact that would be typical for most people. Marnie had already been taking care of her and her sister for years so not having their parents there really wasn’t new. Except they were still there. Kind of. They were just in the garden now, buried under the lavender bushes.
It wasn’t until later that I connected the dots and the references to the sexual abuse from their father. The author manages to indirectly reference the abuse both girls received from their father without going into unnecessary detail but I almost missed it entirely. The only indication given of this abuse was the lasting impacts both girls exhibit (i.e. Marnie’s drinking and drug problems and lack of disregard for sleeping with married men and Nelly’s ongoing night terrors.) Their experiences nevertheless created an unbreakable bond between the girls.
Throughout the story, the reference to people being ‘monsters’ for actions in their life that have inevitably gone on to define them. The elderly gay neighbor Lennie who takes it upon himself to care for the girls when they so desperately needed someone. But due to a past transgression that labeled him a sex offender he becomes identified as a monster. Marnie and Nelly’s parents are more deserving of the label ‘monster’ because of the serious neglect of their children. The girls were forced to grow up at an extremely young age due to their parents terminal absence. Neither girl had anything close to a childhood and it was always a guessing game whether they would come home with groceries or drugs and booze. The children’s grandfather that appears and suddenly wants to be a part of their life to make amends for past wrongs is also deserving of the title. But that’s where the grey area develops: Do the girls actions make them monsters as well? Or is their behavior excusable because of everything they had already been through and what they were trying to avoid? The author doesn’t provide any clear cut answer in determining who is right and who is wrong but it’s safe to say that all characters are at fault in some way.
The style of writing and changes in point of view were brilliant. Each character had their own distinctive voice and their own important story. All points of view were told in first person but Lennie’s was written almost as a letter or diary entries to his deceased lover, Joseph. Nelly is quite the eccentric 12 year-old that is a violin prodigy, has a fondness for old classic movies, and speaks as if, as Lennie put it, “like she swallowed a dictionary”. Marnie, an extremely direct and to the point individual that carries a massive burden which she manages to somewhat hide. It’s obvious that both girls lack necessary help, they just simply don’t know where to look for it.
“What on earth is happening to the bees? They say it is an ecological disaster, an environment holocaust. Every day I wonder what the blazes can be causing this abuse of our ecosystem.” -Nelly
The meaning behind the title eluded me for quite some time and I actually spent several hours pondering its significance. So this is what I came up with, but I could be completely off the mark, I have no idea but it really does seem to have a simple and straight forward meaning. As Nelly stated above, the death of bees is an ecological disaster and an environmental holocaust as bees play a major role and their deaths have a lasting effect. Even though their parents didn’t play a major role in the girls lives, their deaths still managed to make a lasting impact on them.
‘I fear death, I have always feared death. It comes like a gale and never with permission. I would meet it again today.’
‘The Death of Bees’ is gloomy, somber, and brutally realistic but darkly comedic as well. Enthralling and thought-provoking, you’ll find yourselves racing to finish to find out these unforgettable girls’ fate.
This post was a part of The Death of Bees blog tour.
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In the class of the high school English teacher she has been haunting, Helen feels them: for the first time in 130 years, human eyes are looking at her. They belong to a boy, a boy who has not seemed remarkable until now. And Helen--terrified, but intrigued--is drawn to him. The fact that he is in a body and she is not presents this unlikely couple with their first challenge. But as the lovers struggle to find a way to be together, they begin to discover the secrets of their former lives and of the young people they come to possess.
‘That I am your heart’s secret fills me with song. I wish I could sing of you here in my cage. You are my heart’s hidden poem. I reread you, memorize you every moment we’re apart.’
This was a real shocker for me that I enjoyed it as much as I did. For one, this has been on and off my TBR shelf several times as I would occasionally decide that this is simply not for me and I have no plans to read it. But go figure a few months later it pops up on my Goodreads timeline, I take another glance and decide it may be worth a shot. Thanks, Wendy, for giving me that final push. 🙂
I was actually quite touched by Helen and James’ relationship/connection (at least I was once I overlooked their questionable acts). Helen had been Light (a spirit) for well over a century and not once spoke to anyone that entire time and had never quite realized how desperately she craved the company of another. Their feelings for each other were instantaneous yet it thankfully managed to not feel akin to every other insta-love situation these days in YA literature. Helen and James have their own special situation and instead of calling it insta-love I would consider it more of an extreme fascination with one another as they are the only ones of their ‘species’ as they called it.
I know that I should have been repelled by the whole concept of human’s walking around ’empty’ just ripe for the taking for deceased spirits. That their soul can be absent, drifted off to a new place, while their body remains living its life. It really was a creepy concept/possibility but what honestly scared me the most were Jenny’s religious extremist parents. Before Helen came along, she watched Jenny for some time as she simply went through the motions of life without exuding any sort of emotion. Being so constricted by your family, being forced to obey and follow such rigid rules, and forcing their religion into every facet of your very being? Now that’s scary.
This is one of those books where the writing truly took my breath away. It flowed so beautifully and was a real delight. I loved how she kept Helen’s speech true to form considering she wasn’t from this day and age. That type of extra little touch really helped make this a very special book.
This is a novel about love but it’s mostly about learning to forgive yourself for the very reason Helen and James were still on Earth to find each other was because they hadn’t relived their final moments in order to forgive themselves for the actions they made. This was a wonderful, mature, YA novel with hints of romance, paranormal, and learning to find peace.
‘Your mind will never lose anything forever that’s worth keeping.’
The debut of a stunning new voice in fiction— a novel both heartbreaking and transcendent
After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.
Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.
M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss.
The Light Between Oceans is exquisite and unforgettable, a deeply moving novel.
‘There are times when the ocean is not the ocean – not blue, not even water, but some violent explosion of energy and danger: ferocity on a scale only gods can summon. It hurls itself at the island, sending spray right over the top of the lighthouse, biting pieces off the cliff. And the sound is a roaring of a beast whose anger knows no limits. Those are the nights the light is needed most.’
‘The Light Between Oceans’ is a historical fiction story with a dash of enough ‘contemporary lit’ to keep both fans of the genres entertained. This is the story of Tom Sherbourne and his wife Isabel who together made a tough decision years back but are only now being confronted with the fact that their decision was life-changing and unknowingly had a drastic impact on someone else’s life.
The story starts off one-sided telling the story of Isabel and Tom and the boat carrying a dead man and a baby just a few months old that they found washed up on the shores of Janus Rock. When on leave from Janus, Isabel and Tom discover the truth that Lucy’s mother, Hannah, is still alive. Her side of the story is finally told and it’s revealed just how Lucy came to be in a boat washed up on shore. Both sides of the story are truly heart-breaking and good luck trying to determine a ‘side’. Isabel has lost 3 children after 2 miscarriages and 1 stillbirth and fears that she will never be able to mother a child like she’s also dreamed of. After learning about Hannah, Isabel becomes resolved to continuing life as they have been because she feels it’s far too late to do anything at this point. Tom is not as easily convinced but doesn’t wish to take Isabel’s ‘only child’ and doesn’t want to take Lucy away from the only life she’s ever known. Isabel nor Tom can be easily painted wrong. I was mesmerized at how this heartbreaking tale could possibly end.
‘Time and again, Tom wondered at the hidden recesses of Isabel’s mind – the spaces where she managed to bury the turmoil his own mind couldn’t escape.’
The writing was quite beautiful despite the beginning being pretty slow going with all the details of Tom’s army days and his days alone on the island before Isabel joined him. There were also some detailed sections regarding the lighthouse and the upkeep and the overall importance of them. It didn’t go overboard with the details either but gave you enough detail to keep it interesting. So why only 3 stars? I was completely wrapped up in this story and couldn’t put it down, but then I’m not quite sure where exactly, but it veered into what I like to call ‘Lifetime movie territory’. Doesn’t mean the story went bad or anything but it just lost me a bit with the overabundance of drama. It seemed inevitable how this story would and should end and it felt like it was drawn out too much. Intriguing story, yes, but wasn’t anything that necessarily blew me away.
Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to centre stage of her own life - and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey's boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie's own. Joe is the new boy in town, with a nearly magical grin. One boy takes Lennie out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But the two can't collide without Lennie's world exploding...
“The first thing I notice is the sky, so full of blue and the kind of brilliant white clouds that make you ecstatic to have eyes. Nothing can go wrong under this sky…”
A big thank you to Maja and Lisa for hosting the contest which got me a copy of this book. (The good copy that is diary-esque, with all of Lennie’s handwritten notes that she left all over town, and even a blue band to keep all the pages together.)
Despite the fact that I’ve had this book on my TBR list for quite some time, I’m not sure I would have ever picked it up if it wasn’t staring me in the face on my bookshelf day after day. I’m not big on YA contemporary literature and even less big on books about death and dying. I love when my books make me happy, when they put a smile on my face, take me away from the monotonous day to day life we all live and ones that fill me with all sorts of book magic. Yes, this book is about loss, it’s about death, and it’s about grieving, but it’s also about overcoming everything and realizing that the experience has transformed you. This one definitely had the book magic.
“… if you’re someone who knows the worst thing can happen at any time, aren’t you also someone who knows the best thing can happen at any time too?”
This one makes your heart hurt but somehow manages to make it feel good at the same time. Lennie and her sister Bailey were inseparable until she dies unexpectedly from an arrhythmia. The Sky is Everywhere chronicles the process of her grief and rediscovering who she is without her sister. The process was not simple and it didn’t follow any sort of established pattern. Her grief was messy and chaotic and her actions failed to make any sort of logical sense to me at times but they never made logical sense to Lennie either. Losing her sister destroyed her completely but watching her piece herself back together was most inspiring.
‘I try to fend off the oceanic sadness, but I can’t. It’s such a colossal effort not to be haunted by what’s lost, but to be enchanted by what was.’
The one thing I have been unable to fully grasp is… this is a debut novel? Wow. Jandy Nelson’s writing snuck up on me and hit me with lines that astounded. The vividness of which she was able to portray grief was terribly accurate and has left a huge impression on me. She is definitely an author that I will love to read more from.
‘Grief is forever. It doesn’t go away; it becomes part of you, step for step, breath for breath.’
The monster showed up after midnight. As they do. But it isn't the monster Conor's been expecting. He's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming...
This monster, though, is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.
It wants the truth.
I can understand now why many readers had difficulty reviewing this book now that I have read it myself.
Conor, a 13 year old boy dealing with his dying mother and absent father is visited by a monster one night who says that he will tell him three stories and then Conor will tell his story. Confused by the monster’s presence and his purpose for being there, the monster simply says:
’Stories are important. They can be more important than anything. If they carry the truth.’
Who is this monster and what is his purpose? This is the basis of the story so I won’t ruin it for those of you who have yet to read this. With that said, the monster was such a revelation to me as I was clearly anticipating something different. Not bad different, just different.
This was a beautiful yet heartbreaking tale of a boy having to survive the hardships of life at a very young age. This is a children’s book and the writing is very simplistic and straight forward; however, it can still be fully appreciated by all, so please don’t let the targeted age group dissuade you. Be prepared to need a tissue (or give) as this is a tragic novel that will have you feeling it completely. I know I did.
After taking the advice of a GR friend (Wendy :D) I held off on reading the e-book until I got my hands on the real book. Let me tell you… the illustrations are truly amazing and brings something wonderful to this story. They are an experience in and of itself. (See her wonderful review with a few of the illustrations and a link to the webpage of illustrator, Jim Kay, here.
As I finished this book, I turned to look at my boyfriend and the look on my face must have said it all. He asks me if I’m okay. I wasn’t sure how to answer him. It brings out an abundance of emotions and makes it difficult to fully comprehend how exactly you’re feeling.
A very valuable lesson is in between the pages of this little gem. When your monster comes and visits you in the night, how will you respond? Will you turn it away and refuse to accept its existence? Or will you accept it for you and what it is? This is certainly one book that I plan on purchasing so I can go back to it time and time again. Definitely a must read for anyone.
’You do not write your life with words. You write it with actions. What you think is not important. It is only important what you do.’