REVIEW: “The Music of Bees”


Quick, you need an extra set of hands, a couple of strong arms, strong backs, shoulders you can lean on, another brain to pick. You wouldn’t normally ask, but you need assistance; a leg-up for a minute and you’ll be fine. As in the new novel, “The Music of Bees” by Eileen Garvin, a bit of support can benefit both giver and recipient.

An Oregon spring always put Alice Holtzman in a good mood. 

Not only was the weather better but this year, there was so much to look forward to: her beehives from last year were healthy enough to split, and another dozen new hives were planned. By this time next year, Alice thought she might have a hundred-fifty hives and the extra money would be nice.

Life was good for forty-four-year-old Alice – at least most of the time, but she couldn’t bear to think about the past.

And then she almost ran over the kid in the wheelchair.

There were many times when Jake Stevenson thought about what might’ve been.

What if he’d been a better student? Or if he’d fought harder for the scholarship his father cruelly denied him? What if he hadn’t been horsing around at that party and fell, broke his back, ended up a paraplegic, lost his dog, had better parents? And then, what if Alice Holtzman hadn’t almost run him over? Eighteen-year-old Jake would never have left home then, never would have met Alice’s bees, never would have discovered beekeeping.

When Harry Stokes read the ad in the Help-Wanted website for a beekeeper’s handyman, it seemed like a job he could do. He was good with tools and knew how to fix things so he applied, hoping that the employer wouldn’t ask about his past. He’d surely never volunteer that he’d spent time in prison.

Yes, with two new employees, a pending promotion at her day-job, and a beekeeping business that was humming, the future looked bright for Alice Holtzman. 

And then a killaer moved into the area and the bees started to die…

Reading “The Music of Bees” is like coming home from work, putting on your slippers, and claiming your favorite chair: it’s comfortable. It doesn’t make waves or raise your heart rate, it won’t make you emotional. Author Eileen Garvin makes a bit of social commentary here, but it fits with the story in a non-rabble-rousing way. Sweet, that’s this book, with no big sting to make you want to run.

No, in fact, this is a book you won’t mind sharing. There’s a minor bit of profanity here, nothing you haven’t heard before; the plot is believable and Garvin’s writing is smooth, like a refreshing green glade with cool, soft grass. Bonus: if you knew nothing about bees before, you will when you’re done here.

Recommend “The Music of Bees” to your book group, and watch the buzz about it. Pass it to the next reader who enjoys a novel with soft drama. Start this book. You can’t help but like it.

“The Music of Bees: A Novel” by Eileen Garvin

c.2021, Dutton $26.00 / $35.00 Canada 336 pages