Review: Of Bees and Mist

Of Bees and Mist Cover

Of Bees and Mist
By Erick Setiawan
Simon & Schuster
August 2009
404pp

 The blurb from the publisher:

Of Bees and Mist is the tale of Meridia — raised in a sepulchral house where ghosts dwell in mirrors, she spends her childhood feeling neglected and invisible. Every evening her father vanishes inside a blue mist without so much as an explanation, and her mother spends her days venomously beheading cauliflowers in the kitchen. At sixteen, desperate to escape, Meridia marries a tender-hearted young man and moves into his seemingly warm and charming family home. Little does she suspect that his parents are harboring secrets of their own.

There is a grave hidden in the garden. There are two sisters groomed from birth to despise each other. And there is Eva, the formidable matriarch whose grievances swarm the air like an army of bees. In this haunting story, Setiawan takes Meridia on a tumultuous ride of hope and heartbreak as she struggles to keep her young family together and discovers long-kept secrets about her own past as well as the shocking truths about her husband’s family.

The Short of It:

Of Bees and Mist is at once magical and adventurous in the telling. Sometimes enchanting, sometimes a bit spooky. An impressive debut for Erick Setiawan.

The Rest of It:

Of Bees and Mist falls into the ‘magic-realist’ fiction category and I have to say, that I don’t think that I have ever read a book quite like this one. Meridia falls in love with Daniel and moves into his family’s home. There she encounters Eva, the mother-in-law from hell. Eva is so wicked and vile that when she goes to work on you, bees fly out of her mouth to attack you. Needless to say, her words sting quite a bit. Elias, her husband is good at heart, but has a terrible time living with his wife and fights are a daily occurrence. At first, Meridia tries her  best to get along with her mother-in-law, but all that ends when she has her own child and sees Eva for who she really is. This of course causes all sorts of problems between Meridia and her husband, Daniel.

Reading this book was like taking a trip to the circus. Not the circus you and I know today, but a circus from years past. The colorful tents, the jugglers, the musicians, the smell of circus food wafting in the air. This book had a FEELING to it. Every time I picked it up I felt as if I was taken back in time to this magical place. I really enjoyed it.

The only criticism I have is that the Meridia/Eva battle seemed to go on a tad too long and it sort of overshadowed the interactions between some of the other characters. Overall, I was charmed by this book and wonder what Erick Setiawan is working on next.

Source: Thanks to Kathleen Carter over at Goldberg McDuffie Communications for sending me this review copy.

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19 thoughts on “Review: Of Bees and Mist”

  1. Did I read that correctly? Bees fly out of her mouth? For real? I know what you mean, though, about book that have a “feeling”. Kinda hard to put your finger on, but its there.

    1. I have not read Garden Spells but I know that that one falls into the same category (magic-realist fiction). I just can’t believe that Of Bees was Setiawan’s first book. I saw none of that “first book” stuff that you sometimes see in a first novel (forced dialogue, contrived plot, etc).

      I suspect that Setiawan went on a bit long with the Eva/Meridia battle because Eva is just so deliciously evil. Reading about her was always entertaining but I’d say there were 2 encounters too many in regards to their relationship.

  2. I had put this on my wish list at Paperback Swap a while back and couldn’t remember why or what it was about. Thanks for reminding me why I put it on there in the first place!

  3. I have it on my shelf—and I keep thinking I want to read it based on everything I read about it–but I am secretly afraid it may not be my cup of tea. Tell me I should just get over it and read it already!!! 😉
    *smiles*
    Kim

  4. Poor Meridia, it sounds like she goes from one difficult , unhappy home to another! And marries at 16! I know middle-aged women who have difficulty dealing with unkind mothers-in-law and here’s poor, very young Meridia with one so nasty bees fly out of her mouth. And it sounds like she’s got a pussy-footed husband to boot. Sheesh! You review is fantastic, Ti, thank you. I saw this book in the bookstore but when I read the summary it just sound so-so. Thanks to you I now want to read it.
    Thank you!

  5. I love the cover on this, it really appeals to me for some reason and I’m not usually a cover person. Your review is excellent. I have been wanting this book for awhile and you just reminded me of how much

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