In his 8th decade, beekeeper Albert Honig, makes a gruesome discovery when he finds the bodies of his murdered neighbors, Clarinda and Hilda Straussman. As he participates in the investigation of the murder, he is forced to face his own demons as he explores his memories of the past and his relationship with Claire (Clarinda), when answering Detective Grayson’s questions.
I felt almost hypnotized by the narrative; as I listened, the rhythm reached out to me. A beautiful, but simple story, on the surface, it follows the lives of the Honigs and the Straussmans, as Claire and Albert were growing up and coming of age. Claire, more rambunctious than Albert, tried to encourage him to come out of his shell, but he was a solitary individual, socially inept, who preferred his father’s doctrine of keeping orderly and honest, to hers, which encouraged risk taking, and also preferred his bees to people. She, on the other hand, overplayed her hand a bit and suffered from her escapades. Tragedy forced her into a life she never intended.
Claire was lovely, but her sister Hilda was far less so, and together, they were the bee ladies who shared a life of spinsters. Albert and Claire were once great friends, but something happened to change that course of events. Albert was a bit of a martyr and in his need to do “what was right” he betrayed his dear friend. Perhaps she had no right to impose upon his loyalty as she did, but nevertheless, it caused an irreparable rift between them.
The book will make the reader ask the questions, is it all right to keep silent to protect someone? When is it necessary to speak out? Does righteous behavior justify itself even when it causes pain and enormous conflict? Is it kindness or interference when someone intercedes into the affairs of another, or remains silent, even when asked to participate? Who should be the judge of what is right or wrong, the outsider or the person involved?
Throughout the book, the reader will learn about relationships as the hive and its organization is revealed. I must admit, at times, that discussion made my eyes glaze over a bit, but nevertheless, the reader will truly learn a lot about the hierarchy and functioning of the hive. Life and death in the hive follows a natural order. Unfortunately, the sisters did not die a natural death. When a hive goes bad, nothing can be done, and so it is, often, with people.
Discovering and facing the secrets of the past, for himself and for Claire, will help Albert to clear his conscience and his mind, and when Albert finally performs a special ritual for the bees, to announce the death of his friends, Claire and Hilda, he frees himself from his guilt and shame for his past behavior and allows their souls to rest.