Hour of the Bees

hourofbeesby Lindsey Eagar
First sentence: “Something flies too close to my ear.”
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Review copy provided by the publisher.
Content: It’s a tricky story, moving between “reality” and “magic” for much of it. Though there’s really nothing content-wise that would be inappropriate for younger readers, they might lose interest with the plotting. It’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore, though I’d give it to a 4th or 5th grader if they expressed interest.

All Carol wants to do the summer before 7th grade is hang out with her friends and have pool parties and sleepovers, but instead she’s stuck out at her grandfather’s ranch in southwest New Mexico, helping her family pack him up in order to send him to a nursing home. Not exactly her idea of fun. And it doesn’t help that her grandfather is suffering from dementia, either. It’s shaping up to be a long, hot, boring summer.

Except, once she gets there, Carol finds out that her grandfather is full of crazy, magical stories, ones that may or may not be true. And, over the course of the summer, Carol decides that maybe it’s not too bad.

Okay, that’s not exactly all there is to it. There’s a whole thread about a drought, and a tree, and bees taking away the rain that, honestly, I didn’t find all that interesting.

Maybe I should start with the good: I really like that there’s a book out there that deals with grandparents, dementia and death. It’s something that children do need to deal with, and it’s good that there’s a book that does take something like moving a grandparent out of the house and into a nursing home as well as tackling the mood and personality swings that come with dementia.

That said, this smack WAY too much of the Magical Mexican for me. Truthfully, it may just be me (though as I was relating it to E — who’s Mexican — she said, “Um. No.” But she may have been biased from my retelling); please let me know if you read it and you think I’m wrong here. But, I felt like the whole thing of “needing to get back to your roots” and the whole magical realism story thing just didn’t work. Yes, roots are important. But, so is change and growth. You don’t need to sacrifice one for the other (and I felt like Eagar was coming down firmly on Family and Roots are Very Important, especially since we’re Mexican).  It just felt… forced. Off. Not quite natural. And then there was Carol’s whole flipping from being a city girl to being a ranch hand at the end. I just didn’t get WHY. Was it her grandfather’s stories? Where did this deep connection to her roots come from? Why did it happen so suddenly, and so deeply that she would do drastic and rash things at the end? It didn’t make sense to me. (Again: it may just be me. I’ll admit I skimmed a lot.)

At any rate, it ended up not being one that I really loved.

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