I was kind of a weird kid. Didn’t have a ton of friends, tended to fib a lot, spent far too much time under the church next door. Yes, I said under. We lived in Diamond Heights, which, as I’ve mentioned before, was wind-swept, cold and hilly. There was a lot of ice plant and rocks. My first bike got stolen the day I got it (This was all right. Too many hills and I probably would have sold it anyway.). Structures tended to be up on stilts, which afforded plenty of cool hiding areas for raccoons, spiders, delinquent boys and me. When my tall stories were uncovered I began hangin’ with Matt next door. We were the same age and he could talk me into any sort of shenanigans (nothing too awful, just your basic boosting Milky Ways and writing-in-wet-cement stuff – we were young). The only problem with Matt was he blamed me for everything, even if he broke it and I was miles away. But that’s what I got for lying to potential friends about my famous dad and my mom’s bottomless wealth. And by this I mean non-existent and, um, non-existent.
So I picked up The Death of Bees, by Lisa O’Donnell. The prologue is off-putting. Having read Room, and The Lovely Bones and The Road, and, oh yes, Geek Love ages ago, I have experience with disturbing books. Come to think of it, it’s a lot like Geek Love, the details of which are still burned into my brain; it’s really not for everyone. But I believe in the weirdness of family. And I believe in the extraordinary power of family love, even if it’s ghastly and messy and sweet, all at the same time. So I finished Bees and ended up liking it quite a bit. Two sisters find themselves covering up their parents’ death in Glasgow. They (perhaps) have a pedophile neighbor, a sketchy boyfriend, and two friends of the older sister who seem like trouble, but who understand more about loyalty and love than most. Then there’s the charming grandfather who re-enters their lives. Plus, they’ve got their own issues, which, because they’re poor, are not responsibly addressed in society. As with valuable disturbing books (as opposed to gratuitously disturbing books, for which I have NO patience), horrific details are lurking in the shadows between the sentences; the reader will have to extrapolate, but that’s better. Trust me. Aside from a grisly opening sequence about moving dead bodies, the characters will steal you away and make you ponder your own weird family, like it or not. Aside: all kinds of literary incidents are happening in Glasgow, all of them dark and haunting. Check out Denise Mina, for one, if you are a mystery fan.
And a few notes on my offspring:
Ramona on Downton Abbey: “It’s really all about silverware and toast.”
Yvette on The Son’s fiction writing talents: “All of your female characters are either going to die or they’re hobos.”
Boys: Is Axe the new gateway drug? Seems like every 13-14-year-old boy blankets himself in Axe until every adult feels like they’ve been shellacked. Here’s what I told several parents of younger boys: eventually they move onto SpeedStick Sport, with a brief, mom-driven foray into Tom’s Natural, finally arriving at Old Spice Fiji body spray (and then you can assume they’ve discovered someone they’d like to attract, or are covering up a lack of showering).