Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eager

"Things are only impossible if you stop to think about them."

Now I know why students come into the library holding books tight to their chest. This is that kind of book. I finished it and held it close, not wanting to let go of these characters and this world. I wondered if words would ever come to me so I could do this book the credit it deserves.

There are so very many threads of meaning woven into this tale. There are questions that connect to how we care for our environment. It takes a hard look at what makes for a meaningful life and what will we give up for the right to live it how we want. It explores how we treat others in the name of what's best for them and us. It's a parable reminding us to think and ask questions before passing judgement. It reminds us of the power of forgiveness.

On the surface it's a story of a girl who meets her aged grandfather for the first time and comes to love him. She travels with her mother, father, baby brother and older sister to New Mexico to move him to a care home near to them. The family dynamics are mundane and painful. There is the ordinary crankiness of the older teen sister, and the profound estrangement of the father and son. I wept and raged for these characters.

The landscape of New Mexico is almost a character in this plot. Deserts hold a special kind of beauty for me anyway, but Lindsay Eager's depictions of this place captured the magnificent spirit of it.

I'm a sucker for magical realism to start with, but I love that the grandfather's stories always begin with, Once upon a time there was a tree. It's in these stories where magic and reality coalesce. It's through these stories that the past and the future meet one another. It's in the telling of these stories that forgiveness is forged.

Eager's Writing is both straightforward and lyrical. I'm sure I swooned more than once. I was forced to stop and scribble down quotes. Here are a few that resonated with me.

"Stories don't end, he says. They just turn into new beginnings."

"Squeeze the juice out of every day.... Do not be afraid to live. And you will not be afraid to die."

"When a loved one is sick, the days are long, but the years are short."

This book will be in one of my top ten of the year, maybe in all time. I wish more than anything that I had a classroom full of students to read it to. I'm going to preorder a set for literature circles for when it becomes available in paperback. 

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