Hour of the Bees
by Lindsay Eagar
Carol (short for Carolina) is not happy that she will be spending her summer in the middle of nowhere in the New Mexican desert with only her family for company. Her grandfather, Serge, has Alzheimer’s, and alternates between moments of true lucidity and forgetfulness, sometimes calling Carol by her grandmother’s name, Rosa. Hour of the Bees is a place where the line between reality and magic is blurred, like the horizon line in the desert.
The red dust and the blue sky speak of a drought that has lasted over a hundred years. Time seems to have stood still, with only the shearing of sheep to indicate that time has past. Even Serge’s dog, Inés, is the same dog that Carol’s father had when he was young. When the bees start to appear in the bone dry desert, nobody believes Carol, except Serge.
“Bees, impossible. But it’s only impossible if you stop to think about it…If you see any more bees, chiquita, tell me. The bees will bring back the rain.”
Carol passes the summer listening to her grandfather’s made-up stories about a desert town that centered around a tree that healed injuries, where nobody every left, and where babies took years to become children. Telling these stories, Serge is the most lucid, especially when describing his wife, Rosa, Carolina’s grandmother.
“Every step she took, bees followed her in a halo around her head. They trailed behind her wherever she went. No one else in the village had the bees follow when they walked; only Rosa. No one knew why, but no one really asked why—the village had plenty of mysteries. Bigger mysteries.”
The longer Carolina stays in the desert, the more vivid these stories become until she thinks they might just be real. And why are there bees in the middle of a desert that only she can see? And her grandfather’s stories can’t be true—not when he describes a tree that gave a village life, and trees like that don’t grow in the desert.
Lindsay Eagar’s writing is lyrical, speaking of a landscape that, in the middle of its harshness, hides truly beautiful magic within. Hour of the Bees is magical-realism at its best for young readers.