Thursday, February 20, 2014

Telling the Bees by Peggy Hesketh

Octogenarian Albert Honig's most constant companions have been bees.  Deeply acquainted with the workings of his hives, Albert is less versed in the ways of people, especially his friend Claire, whose presence and absence in his life have never been reconciled.  When Claire is killed during a burglary gone wrong, Albert is haunted by the loss and by the secrets that hovered between them for so long.  Piecing together their shared history, Albert will come to learn both painful truths and the redemptive power of laying the past to rest.
The thing I liked best about this book was all the information on bees, beekeeping, and bee lore.  We keep bees, so I already knew a fair amount about them, but it was lovely the way the author could weave all this detail amongst an old fashioned murder mystery.  It is literary fiction with a beautiful narrative, so it is something you need to read slowly so that you might savor all the metaphors.  It is a meditative novel about the intricacies of the human condition that shows us that even the quietest of lives can still hold a full measure of drama and passion.    

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness

Time magazine has said that Patrick Ness is an insanely beautiful writer.  I would have to agree with that. When I read his book "A Monster Calls," I found it to be a profoundly moving and expertly crafted tale, the beauty of which resonated with me long after I turned the last page.  So, I was really looking forward to reading this book, and it did not disappoint.

It is a realistic story with some magical elements.  As Patrick tells us in the Notes & Acknowledgments at the end of the book, the original story of the crane wife is a Japanese folk tale.  It is an inspiring story, one that The Decemberists use on an album also called The Crane Wife.  The epigraph from this novel is taken from the song.

So here's the basic story:  One night, George Duncan--decent man, a good man--is woken by a noise in his garden.  Impossibly, a great white crane has tumbled to earth, shot through its wing by an arrow. Unexpectedly moved, George helps the bird, and from the moment he watches it fly off, his life is transformed.

The next day, a kind but enigmatic woman walks into George's shop.  Suddenly a new world opens up for George, and one night she starts to tell him the most extraordinary story.

This book is all about love--how it can torment us and tear us apart, but also how it can redeem us.  If you believe in magic in whatever form and shape it can assume, this book will appeal to you.  If you love storytelling with beautiful language a bonus, this book will appeal to you.

And if you love cut paper sculptures like those that George does in the book, you really need to check out the work of an extraordinary artist, Su Blackwell (  One of her works is shown below:

The Raven by Su Blackwell

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