Two of my colleagues and I thought it would be fun to read Hour of the Bees together and then discuss it for a blog post. Hour of the Bees, by Lindsay Eagar, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, and as of this writing, it has a 4.23 rating on Goodreads.
March 8, 2016
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.
Me: I thought the story was basically fine (I especially liked the folklore), but I really had issues with how the author described New Mexico, like the landscape, the houses in Albuquerque, and the size of Albuquerque.
Veronica: I agree, the author should have done more research on Albuquerque, but I like that she set the book in New Mexico, because I feel like we have a very unique culture here and that legends like this one do get passed down from generation to generation.
I thought that the main character, Carolina, was very mature for being twelve years old and maybe should have been older.
Me: Yes, I love it that a middle grade novel that's gotten a lot of hype was set in New Mexico.
Crystal: I agree with both of you.I enjoyed the folklore part of the story. But, I did not think that the description of Albuquerque was true to the city. I also wasn't really a fan of the interjections of the pamphlets throughout the beginning the story. I know the author was trying to get information across, but I felt like it could have been done different--possibly a scene from the past that shows the relationships between the family before they go to the farm.
Like Veronica, I also thought that Carolina was really mature for her age and she could have been a little bit older. I also could not quite believe that when she drove the car, she seemed to know exactly where she was going with little help from her grandfather or GPS or something.
Me: I agree with all of that. I also thought that the parents weren't as involved as they should have been, especially when it came to actually watching their kids. They sure did let Carolina's baby brother crawl around by himself a lot!
Crystal: This book emphasizes roots, but the only roots I saw were the grandmother and grandfather, and them living in one place for hundreds of years (if the folktale is true). There were no great-grandparents, or great-great-grandparent. And realistically, if these people were living off and running a farm, where there are no stores or civilization for miles, wouldn't they have much more than sheep on the farm, and more than a single child to help run it?!
Veronica: I liked the family and especially the connection between Carolina and her grandfather. I also liked the folktale/magical realism in the story.
Me: I think the folklore was my favorite part of the story, though I found it interesting that it was a combination of folklore and magical realism. I've not seen that done before in fiction, and I wonder if that would be confusing to younger readers.
Crystal: I agree, the folklore and magical realism was my favorite part, too. I think that Eagar did a great job of weaving magical elements of the folklore story in with the real life story. The bees that nobody saw but Carolina were a great foreshadowing element as well.
Me: So, it sounds like we're all pretty much in agreement: We loved the folklore and magical realism, but think other parts of the story could have been a bit stronger. Thanks for participating in our discussion, Veronica and Crystal!
Have you read Hour of the Bees? If so, what did you think about it? Let us know in the comments!