Of Bees and Mist
By Erick Setiawan
Simon & Schuster
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.