Book club book #6
I wish I was fluent in Spanish so I could have read this in its original language. As a beautiful story in English, I bet it really shines in its native tongue. As is, Murmur of Bees is an intense and emotional tale of an agricultural family in Mexico at the early part of the 20th Century. Part of the wealthier sect as land owners, the trajectory of their lives is forever altered by the discovery of a newborn boy, left by the side of the road, covered in bees.
Adopted into the network of workers, servants, and the boss' family, Simonopio and his bees settle into their own little space. He's a special boy who see things, feels things, understands his life is leading up to a very specific moment.
While we wait for that moment, time passes and huge things happen. The Spanish influenza ravages Mexico and takes a massive swipe at the population. Farming in this particular region transforms with the introduction of orange trees. Land ownership becomes a high-risk occupation as government agencies seize what they want, no questions asked. So many forces push against a successful and healthy life, but with Simonopio's help, his family thrives.
All along, Simonopio continues to grow and wait for his moment, which comes alongside a great sadness. He does what he must, sacrificing much in his continued devotion to the family that cares for him. Without his intervention, the family would have had a history full of suffering instead of just moments of intense strife.
This was a beautifully told story by an unlikely narrator, who isn't even born until halfway through the book. His deep insight into his family allows you to really understand the emotional toll life takes during this time in Mexico's history, along with understanding what some felt they had to do -- good and bad -- just to get through it all.
The author draws on the real history of Monterrey, Mexico and the small, surrounding towns, as the backdrop for a little magic, much love, and a level of familial devotion that creates a great read. The suspense, slowly woven in and built up, makes it a page-turner as well. The payoff is perfect too. You really do have to wait until the end for complete closure of this powerful tale.
A little slow at the start, the book quickly picks up. You'll have a hard time putting it down before you know it as you get to know each member of the Morales family, whether bound by blood or by the land. It's an exciting read and one I highly recommend.