Things are only impossible if you stop to think about them. . . .
While her friends are spending their summers having pool parties and sleepovers, twelve-year-old Carolina — Carol — is spending hers in the middle of the New Mexico desert, helping her parents move the grandfather she’s never met into a home for people with dementia. At first, Carol avoids prickly Grandpa Serge. But as the summer wears on and the heat bears down, Carol finds herself drawn to him, fascinated by the crazy stories he tells her about a healing tree, a green-glass lake, and the bees that will bring back the rain and end a hundred years of drought. As the thin line between magic and reality starts to blur, Carol must decide for herself what is possible — and what it means to be true to her roots. Readers who dream that there’s something more out there will be enchanted by this captivating novel of family, renewal, and discovering the wonder of the world.
Twelve-year-old Carolina (Carol) has to spend the summer in the middle of the New Mexican desert with her family as they prepare her grandfather, Serge, to move into a care facility for elderly people with dementia.
Instead of a summer filled with pool parties and barbecues, I'll be spending my days on a dusty sheep ranch with a grandfather whom I've never met. At least Mom and Dad are dreading it, too. I'll have some company in my misery.
The desert makes for a nice change of scenery in a middle grade novel, and the author succeeds in lyrically rendering the beauty of the desert as well as its stifling heat.
When moonlight hits the ridge, it glitters like a Christmas ornament. The bottom is inky purple, from a million years ago when the universe banged itself together. Star dust. Above the purple, the sand turns rusty red, the color of caveman blood. Then a stripe of orange, and a bright yellow stripe at the top. It's a prehistoric Popsicle.
How is the desert already preheated and ready for baking at eight o'clock in the morning? The warmth seeps through the walls, dry and oppressive.
Carolina initially finds her grandfather and his prickly temperament off-putting, but the relationship she develops with him over time makes for a tender story about patience and love. She often defers to the Seville Guide to Dementia for Caregivers when interacting with her grandfather, which indirectly provides young readers with lessons about what type of behavior is typical of a person suffering from dementia and how best to respond to minimize their distress.
Loved ones with dementia may repeat the same phrases or questions, or repeat the same tasks, such as washing their hands, getting dressed, or showering. Do your best to be patient.
According to Serge, there's been a drought in the desert for one hundred years, a drought that can only be remedied when the bees return.
"If you see any more bees chiquita, tell me. The bees will bring back the rain." "Don't you mean the rain will bring back the bees?" I ask, hoping my correction won't upset him. But he shakes his head emphatically. "No. The bees will bring back the rain. But first we need the bees."
Carolina's skepticism about the bees and the drought wane as her grandfather slowly imparts the story of a magical tree with healing properties. Though the story adds an element of magical realism to the book, it's borderline redundant and eventually grows wearisome for its repetition.
Hour of the Bees is a delightful tale of a little girl finding magic in the real world and learning to be proud of her ancestral roots.
I dunno. I just went in to this expecting to be wowed. My cousin (who has great taste in books) demanded that I read this, and all my Goodreads friends . . . so many five stars! And I'm left thinking, Um, am I the only one who has seen this too many times before?
I'm underwhelmed because, well, let me tell you a bit, and then you tell me if you've read this before: There's a girl, a girl who feels awkward. She's leaving behind elementary school, about to start middle school, which has make up and boy-girl parties and lockers and Other Grown Up Things. And while her friends are diving into this head first, she's a) not sure she wants to and b) stuck all summer helping care for an elderly person. This elderly person confuses her name with that of someone long dead, and tells rambling stories that slowly begin to reveal Secrets From the Past. Like Why Dad and Grandpa Are Estranged, and The Importance of Family in General But Ours in Particular.
This girl has friends, of course, and a more popular girl she admires, but also an older sister she used to be closer to (this is implied, the sister is actually such an unrelenting bitch that I had a hard time believing she was real or had been raised among these people, or any people), and of course there's a baby brother that the protagonist cares for, alone, all the time. The family argues, they reconcile, they forget to make dinner and end up eating pancakes late at night and sharing a warm fuzzy moment. The girl wakes up in the night and has a Touching Moment with her father, instead of being ordered back to bed the way any real parent would. Secrets are revealed, personal growth happens. A stressed out mom fails to see what's going on with the protagonist, who doesn't tell her because her mom suddenly has lines on her forehead and she feels guilty, and etc. And so forth.
In short, this is a book, written by an adult, supposedly for children but really to impress other adults. No child would pick this book up. There is nothing to appeal to them. Tell a kid, "It's about a young girl finding her place in the world and getting to know her grandpa," and they will drop it like it has the Cheese Touch. The main character has no personality. The family are stereotypes. The magical realism that was the hook for me is at first barely hinted at, and then later happens so suddenly that you aren't sure if it really is just a metaphor, and in the last ten pages everyone in the family suddenly changes, the magic is accepted, and the fairy tale ending is secured, and everyone goes home happy. Sort of. Obviously there's been some death, because it's the Circle of Life, Children.
Oh, and yes, there's bees. Not so much an Hour of Bees, more like A Summer of Bees. But whatever.
“Most stories don’t end” he says. “They just turn into new beginnings”
I seem to have a particular soft spot when it comes to middlegrade stories. For some reason, maybe even more so than YA, it harbors some of these gems that transcend an age demographic and can be loved by anybody. I do think that The Hour of Bees is one of those underappreciated gems.
We follow Carolina, a twelve year old girl, over a summer where everything she knows seems to be changing. She is forced to spend the summer with her parents at her grandfathers remote desert farm, as he is suffering from the onset of Alzheimers disease. Initially, Carol isn’t thrilled about the prospect of being away from her friends and spending time with her gruff grandfather, who she barely knows, but as time passes, they develop a strange and beautiful friendship based on the one belief they have in common: that there is magic on this stretch of land.
The Hour of Bees is so pure, sweet, sad and wise all at the same time. It’s also incredibly well executed from a writing perspective. The magical realism approach is perfect for this type of story, as it explores the boundary of what is real and what isn���t, and whether that matters or not. Carol and her grandfather are united by this whimsical, childlike perception of reality; she because of her age, he because of his illness, and it’s both heartwarming and heartbreaking to read about.
This is truly the type of book that I think everybody can get something from. Younger readers may find a whimsical, magical adventures of a girl and her grandpa, adults may see the bittersweet story of a child that is desperately trying to make sense of all the changes around her. No matter what you end up finding, this is a journey that is worth your time. Beautifully written (again: suited for both adults as children) and deeply heartfelt; this hidden gem needs to be dug up from the sands to be appreciated by everybody.
I read an ARC of HOUR OF THE BEES and I loved it. This is a lovely book about family and identity and heritage, about love and loss, about magic and stories and the desert--and what a desert! Eager's descriptions of the New Mexican desert are luminous, and the lonely, remote ranch is a character of its own at the heart of the story.
Twelve-year-old Carolina is a wonderful character. I adore everything about her. She's mature enough to see all the ways her life and her family is changing around her as she grows up, but still young enough to see the strangeness and the magic slowly revealing itself around her. Her relationship with her ailing grandfather is wonderful, and every minute they spend together is equal parts beautiful and painful.
I finished this book a week ago but have had a hard time finding words to put in a review - mostly because I'm still trying to pick my jaw up off the ground and get my brain to think of other words besides WOW. This book is totally mesmerizing. It has a wonderful setting, a fantastic group of characters, and completely enchanting magical elements. Oh, and did I mention beautiful writing? That, too. And a story that stays with you long after you finish reading. So happy I was able to read an ARC - absolutely loved it!
Lindsay Eager's debut may be unlike any other middle grade you've read. HOUR OF THE BEES is at its heart a contemporary story, but the desert of New Mexico is steeped in magic that will keep readers on their toes--what is real and what is not? How are we to judge? These are the questions Eager places before us, on a bed of imagery so richly portrayed that the desert becomes a tangible force, another character unto itself.
Twelve-year-old Carolina's story is familiar middle grade territory: she's forced to spend the summer with a fading grandfather she's never known while her family prepares for his move to a retirement home. Said grandfather Serge is a mystery from the first moment we meet him, speaking "word salad" and talking constantly of bees that don't exist. However, as time passes and Serge reveals more and more of his past, Carolina builds reluctant ties to her grandfather and his ranch, only to find that not all things are as they seem...and maybe those bees are real after all.
HOUR OF THE BEES will appeal to readers who've dealt with the struggles of relocation or aging relatives suffering from dementia. The modern voice grounds the story in today, while allowing tantalizing glimpses of a past that may or may not have been. Whether or not you believe in the magic is up to you, but I want to believe!
I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of HOUR OF THE BEES in exchange for an honest review.
This is a book with powerful themes of finding your roots and what it means to be alive, as well as rich scenes filled with beauty, culture, and family relationships, new and old. It's also a book with a great family of characters and... bees, who buzz around the protagonist Carolina mysteriously like little signs that magic is in the air.
Or is it?
Carolina's grandfather tells her, "Things are only impossible if you stop to think about them." -- a line that reverberates in her mind throughout the book. As she grows and transforms over the course of one summer, she starts to wonder if her grandpa's fantastical stories could be true. Or at least, if the essence of the stories -- "Do not be afraid to die, and you will not be afraid to live." -- is true, and what it means for her and her family.
HOUR OF THE BEES is an engaging, beautiful story that will appeal to fans of TUCK EVERLASTING, HOLES, CIRCUS MIRANDUS, and THE MARVELS. Highly recommend!
Enjoyed this story of 12-year old Carolina (Carol) spending the summer at her grandfather Sergio’s ranch while she and her family pack things up before moving him to a care facility because of his advancing dementia. There’s has been a many-years long drought around the area of the ranch, and Sergio insists that if the bees return, the drought will break. Carol is frustrated by Sergio’s often repeated statements and questions but remembers that could be his dementia and displays a lot of patience when dealing with him. She doesn’t have any patience with the idea of spending the whole summer away from her friends, but does suck it up while her father and half-sister display frustration and anger with the situation. There are family dramatics the whole summer (Carol’s father and Sergio do not get along, while Alta and Carol’s mother argue frequently.) Carol bonds with her grandfather, and comes to love the ranch through Sergio’s stories. Though I found the constant buzzing sounds Carol hears to be a little irritating, I really liked the stories Sergio told her, which is where the magic came into this book. Carol is well characterized, as she slowly pivots from annoyed at the beginning of the book, to deeply engaged with her grandfather and the beauty of the area around the ranch. I’m now interested in discovering more work by Lindsay Eagar.
Sometimes you read a book, and you’re surprised by how much it mirrors your life in unexpected ways. In Lindsay Eagar’s Hour of the Bees, I felt an immediate kinship with twelve-year-old Carolina (pronounced “Caro-leeen-a”), who goes by Carol. Instead of spending the summer before junior high with her friends in Albuquerque, she’s stuck in the New Mexico desert, with her mom, dad, little brother Lu, and half-sister Alta . . . and Serge — no, wait — Grandpa Serge, who she’s meeting for the very first time.
Serge is suffering from dementia, and given that he’ll soon no longer be safe on his own, in the ranch that he built, on the land where he raises sheep, they’re selling his house and moving him to the city, to a fancy old folks home. It’s up to Carol and her family to sift through Serge’s stuff, all while keeping an eye on him, even though Serge is dead-set on never leaving. All of it would be weird enough — new “old people” to hang out with, new place — but on top if it, there’s the bees. The thing is, there shouldn’t be bees out in this desert. It hasn’t seen rain in a hundred years. But the bees are always buzzing around Carol. And then there’s the closet in Serge’s old bedroom, the one he never sleeps in. Behind the door is the droning of hundred of them. But only Carol hears it.
Eagar’s debut has that feeling of an instant classic. Beautiful (yet accessible for the age audience) language, an unforgettable and evocative setting, magical realism, a story within a story, and character struggles that any reader can relate to. Whether it’s Carol’s complicated relationship with her teenage sister, Alta, or her shifting allegiance to her grandfather, there’s just so much that rings true about this book. In particular, what rang true to me right now are all the pieces having to do with leaving a home behind. Though we didn’t have to move my grandparents out of their home, right now we’re going through with emptying and selling it–the house they built themselves and lived in for over fifty years. It’s steeped with memories, and though I was never privy to stories as magical and epic as those that Serge told to Carolina, there’s still that raw feeling in the back of my throat of being not ready to say goodbye. Not ready to see someone else inhabit that space, and yet knowing our days with it as ours are numbered.
I’ll admit, this was one of the books that I’ve been antsy to read for a while ever since I heard about it. I think this book will find a wonderful home with loads of readers — and be explored in many a classroom in the upcoming years.
I really loved reading Hour of the bees, I really did. I would like the recommend this to all of my friends and reread it if I have time to spare. I became a big fan of this author, Lindsay Eager. I’m planning to read a book, “Race to the bottom of the Sea”, one of the books that Lindsay Eager wrote. I especially like this book because it is about Carol struggling to spend her summer days over Grandpa’s house whom she never met. I literally laughed out loud until I choked myself when Carol said shut up to her sister and cried when Carol desperately pleased to her parents to do not sell the Ranch. What I like about this author is that she clearly shows the emotions between a girl’s relationship with her ill grandfather and gives a message to the readers that no matter how bad your relationship is with your family member, love takes care of itself. I also liked how the author put a bit a myth into her story. I really enjoyed reading this because I can relate to all of the character’s feelings and this helped me to visualize myself as actually being in that scene. Of course, this book is about granddaughter and grandpa, a teen girl and old grumpy man, but the feelings between them really touched my mind. I rarely meet my grandma, and even if I did, I rarely talk to her. I remember the days when I visited Grandma’s house, at that time, Grandma and I were like bestie. We enjoyed having a cup of water, not tea, and having a conversation about things I did over the summer. I really hated to leave my home country because I couldn’t get to see Grandma as often as it used to be. For one year or so, I used to call her every week, but it spontaneously got to the point where I only texted her once a year. In the book, Carol and Serge, her grandpa never met each other because carol’s dad and grandpa’s relationship was not that good. I really enjoyed the part where Carol finally opens her mind about Serge and Grandpa telling her his good-old-day stories. That reminded me of my grandma telling me about her childhood stories. I also loved the part where Carol and Alta, her half-sister having a fight and the part where Carol got really pissed and told her sister to shut up. That was pretty cheesy. I can understand that Carol doesn’t want to be mean to her but I can see her trying to pull herself back from wanting to say mean things to her. I also can relate this to my school people when they brag too much. Seriously, I don’t understand them, why would they want to brag about something in front of people who can’t? I got the same pleasant feeling when Carol for the first time, bragged in front of her. It was nice to read about Carol and her relationship with Grandpa. This book deserves to earn 5 out of 5 stars.
More like 2.5 stars. This was a difficult story to rate. Parts of it were beyond brilliant and others were seriously ridiculous. This was intended as Magical Realism, I think, but as I have said so many times before... the real world parts have to be realistic! The parents were both educated career people (the mother an ER nurse), but they kept putting their one year old baby in dangerous situations and giving a twelve year old too much responsibility for major tasks to build drama for the story.
Also, the twelve year old had the thought processes of a 40 year old woman with a Masters in Psycology. When writing a character in first person the world has to be seen and processed with the understanding of that character's age and experience. This book is intended for Middle Grade readers, so being able to relate to the MC is paramount and I don't see that happening much with the adult way this child thinks and acts.
The magical realism parts were wonderful. They were imparted as a skillfully written folk tale. The relationship between the MC and her grandfather was well developed, and the cultural descriptions added to the depth of the story, but all of the big coincidences and uber-unrealistic actions by both the parents and the young MC nearly destroyed the story.
This is another instance in which a story would have functioned better as a YA. It would have been easy to make the heroine 14 or 15, in fact her actions and thought patterns would have made more sense as a 15 year old. And since when did schools start having junior high again? I Googled and it said there are no junior highs in New Mexico, and besides the MC was in sixth grade and junior high started in seventh grade. There were some absolutely silly additions, like the twelve year old's skin being described as "leathery" after three weeks on the ranch (especially when she wasn't spending very much time in the sun anyway). Also, the author needed to do more research on snakes. She had them doing things unnatural to their behavior to set up dramatic situations.
I was approved for an eARC, via Netgalley, in return for an honest review.
I finished this book early in the morning listening to the pouring rain - it was like the book and reality were woven together. This book transports the reader to a time and a place and a family and a story that you want to walk around in and sense every tiny sensation - the smells of the Mexican cooking, the sound of a lone bee buzzing in your ear, the vastness of a desert ranch, the tingling feeling of a story that is wrapped up in history and magic.
I was lucky to read an advance copy of Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eager.
It is stunning and gorgeous--the New Mexico desert is as much a character in this story as twelve-year-old Carolina or her grandfather Serge.
Carolina has never met Serge until this summer--the summer when Serge is finally too old to live alone, the summer when Carolina's family arrives at Serge's ranch to pack up his house and move him to a facility for people with dementia.
There is beautiful storytelling--family conflicts, a one-hundred-year drought, and a story-within-the-story of a magical tree of life. These haunt Carolina as much as the bees that only she can see. And there is a deeply satisfying ending--healing for Carolina's family as well as the ranch she's come to love.
I received a copy of Hour of the Bees to review from Walker Books Australia. When I first read the synopsis of this I knew it would be something I’d like.
This book follows Carol as she comes to terms with spending her summer holidays in the middle of nowhere with a grandfather she’s never met. When Serge starts to tell her a story, Carol feels a connection with him. A connection that grows over the long, hot summer.
I liked Carol and enjoyed the friendship that formed between her and her grandfather. The story Serge told Carol were a little hard to accept but then I remembered Hour of the Bees is fiction and anything can happen in fiction. After that I found myself enjoying them as much as Carol did.
Dementia is a cruel disease. Not only for the person suffering its affects but also for the family and friends that watch their loved one slowly forget everything. I don’t know which would be worse, having dementia or watching someone I care about slowly disappear because of it.
Carol is twelve which I don’t have a problem with but I did think she was older when I started reading. It didn’t ruin the book for me, Harry and Percy are young in the first couple of books. Sometimes Carol seemed older than twelve but then she’d do something that would remind me how young she was. Carol grew up during the summer and realised what was important to her.
I’m going to admit that there were a couple of times at the end of the book that had me tearing up. There was such a sweet ending to the book and I think the summer on the ranch changed more than just Carol. I really liked Hour of the Bees.
Luminous, warm, slow and lovely in the best way. The comp titles are pretty spot on for this one, and while the themes of identity, heritage, and family are perfect for the coming-of-age MG magical realism, I love that the writing itself puts full confidence in its readership. I'm sure there are words and phrases in this book that would be new to middle graders but the magic and beauty of the story will keep readers of any age immersed and I suspect readers of many ages moved. From the first pages of the book, Eagar wonderfully establishes the warmth and color that permeates the entire book and guides you effortlessly into the magical, timeless, scintillating world of Carolina, her family, and most especially her grandfather.
For readers who love to bask in atmosphere and feel sun-warmed by words.
Huh. I was SO looking forward to this book. Magical realism set in my home state of New Mexico? I ran out and bought the book right away, and was excited that it had so many great reviews. Although the magical realism part was charming at times, it was basically just okay for me. What I really had a hard time with was the realistic part. In order for magical realism to be magical and special, the realistic part has to be ACTUALLY REALISTIC. This book has lots of problems, and frankly, I'm surprised the editors and/or previous reviewers (more of them) didn't call the author out. I am from New Mexico, and the issues and unrealistic events presented in this book started right away. It seems to me the author maybe drove through New Mexico and Albuquerque once and decided to write a book, but her research must have stopped there. It's BAD, folks. Just terrible. The mistakes about the landscape, weather, culture, ranching, and city of Albuquerque are so glaring I found it distracting from the content of the story. I guess people who have no clue about New Mexico or the culture could enjoy the book, and it makes me wonder if books I've loved that were written about other places I'm not familiar with could be just as bad and I don't know because I'm not from there, but I hope not. Surely this poor example is the exception, not the rule. Here are the things this author apparently doesn't know anything about (MILD SPOILERS AHEAD):
- Ranching in NM or what it takes to get a piece of land ready to sell (painting house trim? refinishing cabinets? It should have taken that family a couple of weeks to pack up that house, not a whole summer. It's ridiculous. Buyers of ranches are concerned with the well water and mineral rights, not the old house that's on the land. Ranchers would almost never burn down a barn due to termites, especially IN A DROUGHT. Mixing concrete on your own to pave the driveway is also stupid. The author never mentioned a concrete delivery so the dad must have mixed it himself, which would take A LOT of sacks of concrete and A LOT of water, which again, no one would use well water to mix concrete IN A DROUGHT) I think staying all summer at the ranch would have made more sense to me if the family lived somewhere far away, like Orlando, and they stayed all summer so the kids could get to know the grampa, not to "pack the house." It would explain other mistakes as well that the dad made that someone who grew up on a ranch would never make. - The actual weather or landscape of the majority of NM ("the desert" is not a separate place from Albuquerque or the rest of NM, as the main character talks about it, it is ALL of NM unless you're in the mountains) - The culture of Hispanics in NM (shortening Spanish names? Not just the main character, but ALL of her friends and classmates? Hispanics in NM are very proud of their heritage and this would never happen) - How schools work in NM (no junior highs, only middle schools that include 6th grade) - The size of Albuquerque (millions of people? Albuquerque has just over half a million people and besides Santa Fe IT'S THE ONLY BIG CITY FOR HUNDREDS OF MILES, not a concrete jungle the main character describes. Also the kid acts amazed at seeing the "desert night sky" supposedly for the first time. Um, the night sky in Albuquerque IS amazing because it's not a big enough city to have major light pollution, plus the character talks about driving to deserted roads outside the city to practice driving and mentions Placitas where her sister's dad lives, and I just can't believe that in her 12 years of life her family has never driven somewhere on the outskirts of the city at night, where the sky is completely dark and beautiful. But you'd have to actually go to Albuquerque or do some research to know that...) - What houses or front yards actually look like in Albuquerque (spongy grass in the front yard? chrysanthemums? Those flowers don't even grow naturally in NM, plus the characters were out of town all summer and it's HOT in the summer so the flowers would die even if someone were dumb enough to plant them, and most yards in NM are desert landscaped because IT'S THE DESERT and they don't waste water on spongy grass front lawns) - How to handle rattlesnakes near the house (a pillowcase to remove the snake because it's "illegal" to kill them? COME ON. Technically, it's illegal to kill certain species of rattlesnakes because they're endangered but anyone who lives on a ranch would never stop to check the species if a snake is under the house and a direct threat to a baby. They would kill it. Always. Every time.) - Which brings me to the deadbeat parents of this toddler who is barely out of babyhood on a ranch in the middle of nowhere (setting a toddler down on the gravel driveway in summer? Only if you want third degree burns. Leaving the 12 year old and senile grampa in charge because the house might not be safe for the toddler? How about HOLD THE BABY while you check out the house because odds are it's safer than a ranch outside. Sending the toddler with the kid and grampa to shear sheep in the barn? Does the author think barns are like in the cartoons where there's soft hay and docile animals? Any decent parent would never do that - barns on ranches are dangerous and the kid and grampa can't watch a baby while shearing sheep and giving it meds. Or "tonic" with a spoon. Old sheep farming booklets from like a hundred years ago say that in some situations you can give sheep meds with a spoon, which could go along with the grampa being older than is really possible, but most meds are given with a syringe because a spoon is a pain to use. But the situation was so unrealistic but non-magical that using magical realism as a reason for using the spoon is a weak argument. Seems like these situations were created only for drama but are so unrealistic it's hard to take seriously at all.) - Also unrealistic was how the mom suddenly started making delicious Mexican cuisine when at home she only makes Hamburger Helper. Again, not magical enough at all to use magical realism as an argument for this. - How the kid decides to drive back to the ranch with the grampa which is three hours away. The parents supposedly figured out where they went but no state troopers stopped them? The parents didn't catch up to them? The 12 year old drove the whole way with no problems until they reached the ranch? All added to build drama, but was so unrealistic it failed miserably. - How the dad calls the grampa Papa with a Spanish pronunciation, but the kid calls him "grampa" (Why doesn't she call him Abuelo? The dad even introduced him as "grampa". That was a sloppy detail to miss) - How the dad wonders if the grampa called a cab when they can't find him the day they're moving him to the home, but then when it's suggested they call the police the parents say they can't because there's no police anywhere nearby. No cops around for miles, BUT THE GRAMPA MAY HAVE TAKEN A CAB???? There aren't any cabs in NM except for in big cities, which is Albuquerque, Santa Fe (sort of) and Las Cruces, which may not even have a cab service. And none of these cities are near this fictional sheep ranch. Ridiculous.) - How the "ranch" is only two hundred acres. It seems like the author has no experience on a ranch or any large piece of land used for livestock, and two hundred acres just seemed big to her in her mind. Newsflash - that's not big. You can stand in the middle and see the fenceline of two hundred acres. A real ranch in NM would be much, much larger than that, especially if it used to be a successful sheep ranch.
Will my middle school students like this book? Probably. Lots of people did, people who obviously don't have experience in NM, or with ranching, or with the Hispanic culture in NM. But I couldn't get past all the mistakes. The author ruined it for me. There are hardly any middle grade or young adult books written that take place in NM, and I was really hoping this would be great. What a colossal disappointment.
A happy read, a sentimental story, a coming-of-age account. All of it.
Twelve-year old Carolina - who prefers to be called Carol - is spending her precious summer vacation not with her friends in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but on her grandfather's ranch, a hot, dry, dusty, drought-stricken-with rattlesnakes sheep ranch. Grandfather Serge has dementia - probably mid-stage as he has lucid moments mixed in with confused ones. Carol is stuck with a baby brother; a self-obsessed, older half-sister; and a pair of weary and over-worked parents. (What's not to like?)
But over time she strikes up a relationship with Serge, and discovers a mystery involving Serge's late wife, Rosa, Carol's grandmother. There are bees and drought; skinny sheep and drought; the beauty of the desert and its dusty dryness which seems never-ending. In his more coherent moments, Serge slowly tells Carol a story which appears off and on in the book. This all rattles and rolls along until the ending when there are ...
Well, spoilersville! Suffice to say this is a tale many of us can appreciate: the need to belong, have friends and family, the safety of home - and the opposing need to get away, to find yourself, to discover, learn and move. This dichotomy is best represented in the character Rosa, who appears in the book only in Serge's story. But Rosa's a dynamic presence, the epitome of the individual who wants roots - and wings.
Those of you have been following my book review web site for several years know that my mom has dementia and is now in long-term care. She’s doing very well, all things considered. Still there’s a lot of emotional upheaval that comes with caring for someone with dementia who you love, so I generally steer clear of novels right now that could make life feel even stressful than it already is…so why on earth would I decide to read Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar?
This is a story told from a twelve-year-old’s point of view and children tend to see things with a fresh and largely unbiased perspective. There were the bees – no small factor. It also takes place in the Southwest, an area I love, and deals with the transition multi-generational immigrant families go through as they become more Americanized. And, last but not least, there was something about the publisher’s description that drew me in – maybe it was just meant to be. For all the conscious and subconscious reasons I chose this novel, I’m really glad I did. The underlying subject is difficult to read about normally; however, it’s treated with respect and dignity and, above all, it’s treated accurately. Find out if it’s a book that belongs on your TBR pile at http://popcornreads.com/?p=8937.
Simply stunning. Magical realism at its finest. Despite being middle grade fiction, I wouldn't hesitate to put this book in a high school classroom. In fact, I'd recommend it to anyone who read and loved Bone Gap.
“Things are only impossible if you stop to think about them.”
I honestly kind of boggled with what to say toward this book. My first thought is to address what everyone may be thinking when they look at the genre and see Children's -- Middle Grade as something it's listed under. Going into this book, I had no idea it was marked as that and I wouldn't have guessed if I hadn't looked to be completely honest. I was on a plane and I wanted Contemporary so this is the book I chose and I am not ashamed in any way, shape or form. The way this book was written was absolutely dazzling. The use of metaphors and just language in general. The words flowed so seamlessly it was just meant to be, no space for error! The plot flowed at a simple pace but it was constantly evolving. It was picture perfect.
"Once upon a time, there was a tree."
A young twelve year old girl named Carol is spending her summer away from the big exciting life of the city and is carted off with her family for a two month long excursion into the New Mexico desert to visit her dying grandfather that she never met. She expects monotony just boredom to overtake her completely. She wants to spend the summer at home with her friends, not in a desert in the middle of nowhere with a senile grandfather who is suffering from late-stage dementia, especially as he keeps addressing her by either her dead grandmother's name or Caroleeeena. As the months wear on and she spends more time keeping an eye on him and helping to get the house ready to sell, she grows fond of her grandfather's stories. Stories of a town that bases their beliefs around a singular tree. How that tree brings life and how protection is a gift that has been granted as long as they stay by the tree. She becomes enthralled hearing about a woman who left and a suitor that stayed.
"Do not be afraid to die, and you will not be afraid to live."
I don't really want to go on with my explanation and risk giving away the whole story, because it is rather short. As I said before, this book was beautifully written and just....beautiful! I think it was adorable! Completely unexpected when I picked it up but definitely one I would consider re-visiting later! It had a lot of small life-lessons meticulously woven in that could be helpful for times to come! I was not disappointed with this one.
I'm still touched. What a stunning, gorgeous, magical story. I haven't felt this nostalgic since reading Esperanza Rising in elementary school.
The story takes place in Albuquerque on an aging farm. Though she expected a more virtuous summer, Carolina - occasionally, Carol - is soon headed to the New Mexico with her family to look after her ailing grandfather, Serge. The family periodically struggles with selling Serge's land and whether to place him in a retirement home or not. Serge's dementia is taking over his whole self. Infrequently, he confuses Carolina with his dead wife, Rosa, and anytime his son, Raul - Carolina's father - inquires about selling their property, he explodes.
But Carolina is especially drawn to him. To the stories he shares. He tells her about the bees and the drought. How his eternal love, Rosa, longed to escape the town. Stories that are often started with: "Once upon a time, there was a tree." Though Carolina is originally fearful of bees, she eventually conforms to them.
And though they never make a physical appearance, I seriously liked Carolina's friends, too. They seemed supportive.
The relationship Carolina and Serge shared was mystical. I was enraptured by it. I was taken by every story he shared. And to see a grandparent so adoring to their grandparent was a lovely sight. The conflicts on the farm were liquid and real. And though I couldn't comprehend, at first, why Carolina's parents were so hostile, it had been for good reason and everything was soon sorted.
A rightfully-deserved recommend. Please add this to your TBR if you haven't already.
One thing I love about not being on the Newbery committee anymore is that I can just quit a book if I'm not feeling it. Such is the case with this one. There is a version of me who might love this book. It has lots of stuff going on that I generally love. Magical realism. Grandparents. Summer. Diversity. A great cover.
But I can't get over how Carol doesn't sound at all like a 12-year-old. Voice in first-person narration is very important to me. If a writer wants to craft their prose in a sophisticated way, it's just not going to work for me as first-person narration by a child. It sounds too much like the adult writer. For example:
"The desert seems alive and breathing, a huge, sandy monster that sucks moisture from bones and blows the dry, dry air up, where it rolls and churns and boils. Another bee buzzes around my shoulder and lands on my earlobe. 'Go away!' I wiggle my body and swat at the bee. The dog lifts her head and sniffs in my direction. Finally the bee carries itself away, until its lace-thin wings are camouflaged against the beginnings of a sunset." (page 11)
That is beautiful writing. But does it sounds like the voice of a 12-year-old? No.
This was a page-turner and made me want to keep reading right from the very beginning! The story was realistic, but there are also elements of surprising magic, making for a nice blend of two genres: realistic fiction and fantasy. An emotional story that made me think about family, love, and connection, this is a must read!
This was just an absolutely fantastic book! I wasn't sure about whether or not to read it when I saw it on the shelf at the library. It was the title that gave me the extra little nudge to read it. "Hour of the Bees." It sounded interesting, and it sure was. When I began the book it was quite boring and I didn't really want to read it but I kept on reading page after page. After a while I found myself looking forward to reading it everyday. The book began with a girl named Carol on summer break. Although, this wasn't just an ordinary summer with barbecues and hanging out with friends. This summer, she was going to spend the summer in the middle of the desert with her grandfather whom she had never met before. Grandfather Sergio had dementia and had to be moved to an elderly home. Sergio, personally didn't want to leave his ranch in the desert, it was his home. But, he didn't have a choice. Through the course of the summer Carol was forced to "watch" Sergio. Although Carol didn't know it, she began to love Sergio as her grandfather. It was the stories that he told that she loved to hear and they always began with the line, "Once upon a time, there was a Tree..." YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK