Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Review: Of Bees and Mist by Erik Setiawan
Of Bees and Mist by Erik Setiawan
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Trade paperback 416 pages
Book Source: TLC Book Tours
My Rating: 87/100
Of Bees and Mist is an engrossing fable that chronicles three generations of women under one family tree and places them in a mythical town where spirits and spells, witchcraft and demons, and prophets and clairvoyance are an everyday reality.
Meridia grows up in a lonely home until she falls in love with Daniel at age sixteen. Soon, they marry, and Meridia can finally escape to live with her charming husband’s family—unaware that they harbor dark mysteries of their own. As Meridia struggles to embrace her life as a young bride, she discovers long-kept secrets about her own past as well as shocking truths about her new family that push her love, courage, and sanity to the brink.
Erick Setiawan’s astonishing debut is a richly atmospheric and tumultuous ride of hope and heartbreak that is altogether touching, truthful, and memorable.
Setiawan uses magic to weave his tale of domestic dysfunction and unhappiness. The Mist represents the the unhappy, loveless, and cold home that Meridia grew up in, literally and figuratively. The constant battling between Meridia's parents causes Meridia to latch on to the first safe refuge she stumbles upon, that being Daniel. Not to say that Daniel wasn't a sweet boy, he was. However, I think her unhappy life at home causes Meridia to overlook glaring inconsistencies in the behavior of Daniel's family when she meets them. The Bees represent the constant needling and manipulation employed by Daniel's mother Eva, on her family. In Daniel's house, it is all about Eva. Whatever Eva wants, she gets, and all must please her. No if, ands, or butts. Eva treats her oldest daughter like gold, meanwhile her youngest daughter is treated like a sewer dweller. It is a deplorable family situation, and there are insights given in the story for Eva's behavior. Unfortunately, I could care less what the reasons are: you don't treat people that way.
The bulk of the story is Meridia and Daniel's marriage and how they work, sometimes together, to get out from under Eva's thumb. Meridia does eventually realize how much her parents actually love her, and that all of their fighting was with each other. She was merely a causality of war. As for Daniel, I'm not sure if he ever really figures out his mother. Besides, no one ever wants to believe the worst of their mother, even when they deserve it.
While I enjoyed the way in which Setiawan uses magic to convey the characters feelings and moods, the underlying story, the domestic dysfunction, became boring for me. Yes, I finished the book, but I felt kind of meh as I read it. At times Meridia stands up for herself and Daniel, yet I don't think Daniel ever really sees how manipulative his mother is. I understood the magic of the Bees, but even so, if Daniel loved Meridia so much, he should have believed her more often. There was one instance when Meridia and Daniel do give Eva a piece of their mind. Unfortunately, the situation evolves into Daniel having to choose a side: Eva or Merida. That's never good. Another interesting facet, Meridia and Daniel communicate very poorly with one another, which is part of the problem with their respective set of parents. I wanted to grab Meridia, shake her and say, "Just tell him already how you feel and how he is making this happen. Communicate effectively girl!" But I guess that's part of the overall story. Neither Daniel or Meridia had good role models for marriage so how could they know what a good marriage is?
Setiawan writes beautifully, and I liked the way magic was incorporated into the story. The magic makes for a good backdrop and provides for interesting side descriptions. Quite clever and inventive. But as I said, the underlying story was a bit boring, so that's why I gave it a high B rating.
For more information, please visit Eric Setiawan's website or his Facebook page.
For more reviews and other tour stop information, please visit the main tour page.
Thank you to Trish from TLC Book Tours for inviting me to participate in the tour.
2010 Challenges Met: 100+
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Review: Of Bees and Mist by Erik Setiawan
fiction|magic|TLC Book Tour|