Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:
"In the late summer, hives full of ripening honey emitted a particular scent, like the whiff of sweetness Augusta used to catch passing by the candy-apple kiosk at the fall fair." Gail Anderson-Dargatz's beautiful new novel is saturated with bee lore, rich domestic detail, wondrous imagery culled from rural kitchens and gardens, and shining insights into family and friendship. And at its heart are the life, death, and resurrection of an extraordinary marriage. A Recipe for Bees introduces a remarkable and engaging heroine whose quest for love and independence spans a lifetime. Augusta Olsen has attitude, a wicked funny bone, a generous and wayward heart, and the gift of second sight. When her mother dies, Augusta is bereft and without direction until she marries her first suitor, Karl, the shy son of a detestable old farmer. As a young woman with an eye for beauty who longs for affection, she finds life on their remote, rustic farm almost unbearable. When the local reverend offers the occasional afternoon relief from her cloistered existence, she accepts; when another man from the town shows interest, she feels herself drawn toward him. Eventually, she and Karl and their young daughter, Joy, move onto a farm of their own, and Augusta looks for new ways to assert her independence. It is not until she resurrects her mother's beekeeping equipment that sweet possibilities become evident. And as the strands of her life unexpectedly twist together, the indulgences of youth and the many delights and exasperations of old age are enchantingly revealed.
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<anon I1="BLANK" I2="BLANK">From Chapter One "Have I told you the drone's penis snaps off during intercourse with the queen bee?" asked Augusta. "Yes," said Rose. "Many times." Before Augusta dragged her luggage upstairs to the apartment, before she checked on the welfare of her elderly husband, Karl, even before she hugged and greeted her seven kittens, she had made her way, with the aid of a cane, across the uneven ground to inspect the hive of bees she kept in Rose's garden. "They won't mate at all unless they're way up in the sky," said Augusta. "The drones won't take a second look at a queen coming out of a hive. But when she's thirty, a hundred, feet up in the air, then she gets their interest. They'll seek her out, flying this way and that to catch her scent until there's a V of drones -- like the V of geese following a leader in the sky -- chasing along behind her." "You were going to tell me about Joe," said Rose. "As soon as the drone mounts and thrusts, he's paralyzed, his genitals snap off, and he falls backward a hundred feet to his death." "I don't want to hear about it." In late summer, hives full of ripening honey emitted a particular scent, like the whiff of sweetness Augusta used to catch passing by the candy-apple kiosk at the fall fair, but without the tang of apples to it. She should have been smelling this now, but instead the hive gave off the vinegar-and-almond scent of angry bees. They buzzed loudly, boiling in the air in front of the hive like a pot of simmering toffee. There were far more guard bees than usual, standing at attention at the mouth of the hive. "Something's been after the bees," said Augusta. She took a step forward to examine them, but several bees flew straight at her, warning her off. "I'll have to look at them later," she said. "When they've settled down." She turned to the balcony of her apartment, directly above the garden. "Do you think Karl remembers today is our anniversary?" "He hasn't said anything to me," said Rose. Later that evening, though, Augusta would learn that Rose had hidden Karl's flowers in her fridge. He had walked up and down the roadsides and into the vacant lots, searching for pearly everlastings, sweet tiny yellow flowers with white bracts that bloomed from midsummer right on into winter, and held their shape and color when dried. They were the flowers Karl had picked for Augusta's wedding bouquet forty-eight years before. He had brought the flowers to Rose's apartment in a vase and asked her to hide them in her fridge until later that day. "You'd think he'd remember, wouldn't you?" said Augusta. "Especially after everything that's happened these past three weeks." "You'd think." "You can hear it, you know." "What?" "The snapping. If you're listening for it, you can hear a sharp crack when the drone's penis breaks off." "Oh, God." Rose followed Augusta as she headed through the sliding glass doors into Rose's apartment to retrieve her luggage. "Can you carry this one upstairs?" she asked Rose. "And this one? I can only manage the one bag with this cane of mine." Rose took the bags, one in each hand. "But you were going to tell me the story, about seeing Joe again." "Not now, Rose. I want to see if Joy's phoned with news about Gabe." "But you promised." "We'll have plenty of time later." "You'd go and tell something like that to some strange woman on the train, but you won't tell your best friend." "I like Esther. I think we'll be seeing a lot more of her. I promised to show her my hive." "You'll be seeing a lot more of her. I don't care if I ever see her again." "Well, since neither Esther nor I can drive, you'll have to drive me, so yes, you will be seeing her again." "Oh, isn't that just great? Now I'm your personal chauffeur." Augusta turned around at the doorway. "Rose, what's this all about?" "Just tell the story. About Joe. I thought you never saw him again." Augusta shook her head and started up the stairs to her apartment. "I'm sure I told you all that already. I can remember showing you the brooch he gave me. Ages and ages ago." "Yes, the day we met. But you never told me the story. Are you really going to give that brooch to Joy?" Augusta had met Rose five years before, on the ferry, just after she and Karl had sold the farm. Augusta and Karl were moving to the warmer climate of Vancouver Island. Rose turned the corner into the ferry bathroom and there was Augusta, sitting at the mirrored makeup counter they have on those boats, rummaging through her big purse. Augusta had looked up at Rose in the mirror, smiled, and said, "Do you have a comb? I can't seem to find mine." Perhaps it was an inappropriate request to make of a stranger, she thought now, rather like asking to borrow someone's toothbrush. Rose said no. "They have them at the newsstand." "Thanks. I'll get one from there. That's a lovely brooch you're wearing." "It was my mother's," Rose replied, and Augusta promptly caught her in a web of conversation about the brooch a man named Joe had given her, a brooch Augusta pulled from her purse and showed Rose: a silver setting hemmed a real bee suspended in amber. When Augusta held it up, it cast a little pool of honey light on the floor. "It was the only lasting thing he ever gave me, in the way of presents," she said. "And that was decades after I'd stopped seeing him. I still dream about him, you know." Rose nodded and smiled and moved slowly backward, away, to a toilet stall. Augusta, seeing her discomfort, left before she came out again. Excerpted from A Recipe for Bees by Gail Anderson-Dargatz All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.</anon>
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Library Journal Review
On the 48th anniversary of her marriage to Karl, Augusta awaits word of the results of her beloved son-in-law's brain surgery and reflects on her life's tribulations. Having lost her mother at 14, Augusta was no stranger to hardship when she married at 18. Still, life with the much-older Karl and his miserly father on a remote farm that had not seen a woman's touch in decades was initially almost too much to bear. But, finally, after she had found tenderness with another man and borne his child, Augusta was able to lure Karl from his father to a farm of their own. There, Augusta started keeping bees to earn a little extra money and began to find some sweetness in her marriage. Already a best seller in Canada and England, this moving story by the talented Anderson-Dargatz (The Cure for Death by Lightning) is bound to win her a devoted American audience. Recommended for public libraries.ÄDebbie Bogenschutz, Cincinnati State Technical & Community Coll. Lib. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.