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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Review: Of Bees and Mist

Of Bees and Mist: A NovelTitle: Of Bees and Mist
Author: Erick Setiawan
Page Count: 416 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: magical realism, fantasy
Copy for review provided by the publisher in anticipation of an honest review

50 words or less: Meridia wants only two things from life: love and acceptance.  Finding those things, whether it be from her parents, her peers, her lover/husband, his family, or form the community proves to be a project that will take years to complete.

I have a confession to make.  I accepted this book for review back in June, and for one reason or another it's been on my TBR pile ever since.  I freely admit here that I am kicking myself for letting it sit for so long as it's totally unlike anything else I've read in a long time.  If I had to make a parallel to other published works, I'd say it reminds me of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez or The Death of Artemio Cruz by Carlos Fuentes, both in terms of style and grandeur.

Before we start, allow me to show you the one thing that I can recommend that will enhance your reading experience:

This story is simultaneously enchanting, horrific, enraging, tragic and hopeful.  My emotions were so up and down while reading that I couldn't tear myself away throughout the entire book.  The beginning was bleak as Meridia (our heroine) has to deal with a cruel father and a distant mother, the middle was a dichotomy; exuberant as she experiences the joys of young love and of being a mother, enraging as she deals with the in-laws from hell and a rapidly deteriorating marriage, and the end was full of sad purpose as Meridia is forced to rebuild her life and find her own identity after feeling alone and abandoned by everyone who was supposed to care about her.  I felt physically exhausted at the conclusion of the story from the emotions that were tearing through me while reading Meridia's story.

Symbolisim and metaphor runs rampant throughout this book- the bees, the mist, birth, death, they're all important, and the author does an excellent job of guiding us through the story without leaving us to flounder or bludgeoning us over the head with the obvious.  The story is sneaky and subtle and leaves you wanting more...but not for too long.  The last two pages constitute the most appropriate, fitting and satisfying ending to a story that I've read in a long time.  Wounds are healed, justice is served, and Meridia finally gets the love and acceptance that she's craved, along with something she didn't know she wanted: peace.  Believe it or not, that's not a spoiler; that's a thought to keep you going when when you're bawling your eyes out in the middle or ready to rip Daniel (her husband) a new one for his incredible stupidity and gullibility. 

If you're in a situation where you find yourself having to do literary analysis or write formal papers about books, I can definitely recommend this one as a candidate for such a project.  There is a lot here to unpack and it makes the story very versatile, whether it be as pleasure reading or as an academic exercise.  It's good to have options!

Overall Grade: A


Kulsuma said...

Good review! Sounds interesting and complex.

Tina said...

Emily- this was one of my favorite books this summer. I felt tired after reading it.

Missie said...

Okay. I just ordered this book. Now I can't wait to get it in. I just hope I don't leaving it sitting on my TBR for long. You don't know how much I need a story with a satisfying ending; I've been reading too many stories that end with evil chiffies for my liking.

I'm glad you enjoyed it so much. And thanks for the tissue warning.

Llehn said...

This sounds like a must read! I hope it lives up to expectations now that you've built it up so high!

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