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Hour of the Bees

by Lindsay Eagar

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3322964,679 (4.09)5
What does it mean to be fully alive? Magic blends with reality in a stunning coming-of-age novel about a girl, a grandfather, wanderlust, and reclaiming your roots. 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.… (more)
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Having just finished this book I still can't tell you if it is a realistic fiction or a fantasy and I LOVE IT! The story is beautifully told and pulls on your heartstrings. Carol is in middle school and has to spend the summer on her grandfather's ranch as they prepare to put him in an assisted living facility because of his dementia. Most of the family members are dreading the situation, Carol included. However, once at the ranch things slowly start to shift as grandpa opens up to Carol and tells her the story of the tree. The book really is a thing of beauty with great lessons about living life instead of fearing death. ( )
  LectricLibrary | Feb 16, 2022 |
3.5 Magical realism for the YA crowd. Carolina (Carol) and her family are spending the summer at her grandfather Serge's ranch in rural New Mexico. This is the summer before she starts junior high and she would much rather be with her friends. She says "I measure time with changes." (194) "I snap my fingers, just to see how fast a second is. Things change that quickly. If only I could have bottled up that moment and saved it for when I needed it -- but moments can't be stored or repeated. They are lived once, then gone." Serge is succumbing to dementia, so the task is to get the drought-burdened ranch into shape to sell and to put Serge is the Seville, a home for the elderly. Carol's father Raul has not had a very good relationship with Serge and so the family doesn't know him well and they barely remember Rosa, their grandmother. Carol's mother, her older, glamorous step-sister Alta and baby brother Luiz (Lu) are part of the family effort to get things in order. Serge fixates on Carolina, as he insists on calling her, to honor "her roots" and because she is the spitting image of Rosa. It is to her he tells his stories, and at first resistant, she later becomes his advocate and helper as he seeks his own way of getting things in order for his death. His stories center on the tree that gave the village life (immortality?) and safety and water for many generations. Carol initially sees this as part of his dementia, but when characters named Sergio, Rosa and Raul are introduced, she begins to wonder if there is some truth to it. "Bees bring the rain" he tells her and she has seen bees buzzing around, but no one else notices. He also talks about Rosa's wanderlust which spread to the village and led them all to dismantle the tree bit by bit to take some its protection with them. When her closet is unlocked and items from all over the world are filled wall-to-wall, again, Carolina begins to see the truth in the story. She is desperate to learn the end before her Grandfather's end. He is the one who stayed fearful of the wider world. His parting words: "Do not be afraid to die and you will not be afraid to live." The tree's demise was the cause of drought and Carol wants to be the one to renew it. The ending gets a little far-fetched even for magical realism -- Carol steals Alta's car to spring Serge from the Seville and drive 3 hours in pouring rain back to the ranch so he can see the drought has ended....but the resulting transformation and the relationship they develop are real enough and give Carol her sense of roots before she moves into a bigger world in the Fall. Beautifully conceived and mostly a smooth read if you are willing to suspend belief and become part of 2 stories. ( )
  CarrieWuj | Oct 24, 2020 |
"Hour Of The Bees", the third book in my journey across fictional America, takes me to the Painted Desert in New Mexico.

New Mexico is one of my favourite States. It's managed to keep its wild beauty. The Painted Desert is one of the most spectacular places I've visited. It manages to be both stark and welcoming, as if it's daring you to have the courage to live there

Despite this, I found myself delaying starting "Hour Of The Bees". I even considered finding an alternative book in my TBR pile to continue my journey.

Why?

Well, the blurb sounds a little miserable, a twelve year old girl forced to spend the summer with a grand father she barely know and who is sinking into the quicksands of dementia. I've already lost someone to dementia. It's a very grim business.

I'm ashamed to admit that I was also put off by the cover. Could the publishers have put any less effort into it? It's bland, amateur, and not even slightly intriguing.

So why did I read it? It's read by Almarie Guerra, who did a wonderful job with "The Water Knife".
She does a beautiful job with "Hour Of The Bees" and I soon found myself absorbed into the world of twelve-year-old Hispanic girl, spending the summer on a dying ranch in the desert, preparing to move her soon-to-be-lost-to-dementia grandfather for a move to a home.

During the summer, her grandfather tells her the story of his life, starting always with "Once upon a time". The story has strong elements of magical realism or perhaps allegory would be a kinder description, which I normally find tiresome because it so far removed from reality and is obsessed with being clever. Lindsay Eager showed me that it doesn't have to be like that.

She introduces a splendid ambiguity to the storytelling by having the tale told by an old man with dementia to a girl with limited experience of life. This ambiguity left me to make up my own mind and helped me to concentrate on the emotional truths of the novel: that life must be embraced to be lived, that love is the anchor of hope and that a place can have a soul that we can push roots into and be nurtured by.

This is a summer of change for the young girl, making her re-examine who she is and who she wants to become. We see her relationship with her (step)sister shift shape from day to day, her empathy for her parents deepen and her love for her grandfather and the land he's given his life to blossom. She focuses on time and how we measure it and comes to understand that our approach to time changes who we are.

The pace of the story-telling is perfect: slow enough to give the sense of time passing on a remote desert ranch and fast enough to keep you wondering what will happen next. Each moment is threaded between the pearls of "Once upon a time..." storytelling that change the context of the present moment and the meaning of everything that passed before.

"Hours Of The Bees" is a fresh, original and pleasantly non-didactic book that made me think, cry and occasionally laugh. I was surprised to see that it's being marketed (and winning prizes) as a children's book, not because it isn't a good book for children to read, but because I think its range and appeal is much broader than that.

I enjoyed my summer on this ranch in the Painted Desert. I recommend you spend some time there. ( )
  MikeFinnFiction | Jul 8, 2020 |
This really hit me where I live. Home and roots vs. wanderlust, with an environmentalist allegory about the tending and protection of one's home and how the overuse of resources -- even for the best of reasons -- erodes all the interrelationships that make a home/planet safe. (Reminded me of [b:Bayou Magic|23197281|Bayou Magic|Jewell Parker Rhodes|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1413130729s/23197281.jpg|42742269] in that way.) I was a sobbing mess by the end. ( )
  SamMusher | Sep 7, 2019 |
A whole summer stuck in the intensely hot New Mexican desert helping her parents clear out her grandparents' sheep ranch and move her ailing, dementia-ridden, temperamental grandfather, who she has never even met before, is not even remotely what twelve-year-old Carol (Carolina) expected or wanted to be doing with her summer. Then she meets her grandfather, Serge, who calls her Caro-leen-a and Chiquita, and she finds herself drawn to him and his magical stories of a special tree that protected their village, a lake, a woman named Rosa and a love like no other. And then there’s the bees that appear that aren’t even supposed to be in this drought-laden desert and they strangely seem to be following her. This wonderful book easily drew me in with its well-developed, likable characters and realistic, and almost magical elements. What especially shines is the beautiful, developing relationship between this granddaughter and her grandfather, and the mutual respect, love and understanding that grows with it. I absolutely loved this very special book that simply, but beautifully, reminds us of the unique ties that bind us to our family and our roots. When I closed this book, all I could say was, wow. This is the best book that I have read this year. Add it to your must-read list now.

Sharyn H. / Marathon County Public Library
Find this book in our library catalog.

( )
  mcpl.wausau | Sep 25, 2017 |
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This first one is for me.
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Something flies too close to my ear.
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What does it mean to be fully alive? Magic blends with reality in a stunning coming-of-age novel about a girl, a grandfather, wanderlust, and reclaiming your roots. 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.

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