Laline Paull’s ambitious and bold first novel, “The Bees,” follows Flora 717, a sanitation worker doomed by her birth to the lowest caste of her community. She is large and ugly and — oh, yes — a bee. What could feel gimmicky or cute never does; Flora 717 is a brave and spirited soul, and it is a pleasure to follow her through the hive and the air. The brief prologue and epilogue are the only sections of the book with humans, aside from a single scene halfway through in which a man harvesting honey comes off something like Godzilla. Truly, who needs people when bees provide this much pathos?
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