Of Bees and Mist: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, Aug 4 2009
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"Of Bees and Mist is sheer enchantment. Erick Setiawan has created a magical world just outside of our own, made all the more human and compelling by its rich and astonishing strangeness." - Keith Donohue, author of The Stolen Child and Angels of Destruction
"A beautifully crafted adult fairy tale of love, loss and loyalty that is at once witty, magical, and moving. Of Bees and Mist is a stunningly accomplished first novel." - John Connolly, author of The Book of Lost Things and The Lovers
"Of Bees and Mist is set in a secretive and mythical landscape where readers will yearn to be. A marvel of a novel." - Da Chen, author of Colors of the Mountain and Brothers
“A fascinating domestic drama.”
—Carolyn See, The Washington Post
“A story that pulses with life.”
—The San Francisco Chronicle
“A looping joy to read.”
—Denver Post --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
About the Author
Erick Setiawan was born in Jakarta, Indonesia, to Chinese parents and moved to the United States in 1991. He is a graduate of Stanford University and currently lives in San Francisco.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Meridia uncovers secrets in her family as well as Daniel's. Spells, charms, witchcraft, demons, prophets, and clairvoyants are an everyday reality in Meridia's world. Colorful mists whisk her father away, and her mother's cooking can heal almost anything that ails you. Her mother-in-law also possesses strange powers; her vindictive, evil ways manifest themselves into a swarm of bees that attempt to pull Meridia and Daniel apart.
Meridia must use all of her strength to keep her family together, and mend the broken parts of their lives.
I was truly amazed by this novel. I am constantly drawn to fairy tales, and though this novel reads like one, none of the content seemed far-fetched. Erick Setiawan was able to create a world where the unbelievable seemed completely possible. It was easy to get lost in the story because of that.
At the heart of this tale are three women - Meridia, Ravenna, and Eva, and how their relationships color their world. It is also about strength and the true meaning of love. It is beautifully told, and a joy to read. A fairy tale for the modern era - brilliant!
Reviewed by: LadyJay
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
That's not to say it isn't without its charms. The finest practitioners, chiefly Garcia Marquez and Allende, can conjur moods and imagery that are equal parts bleak and enchanting, about as far removed as one can get from the prickly, precise BritLit I tend to favor.
While not yet in their league, with Of Bees and Mist, Erick Setiawan has managed to conceive an absorbing fairytale about the destructive power of family secrets. Even as they navigate the mystical/metaphorical landscape he's created for them, his characters (particularly spirited protagonist Meridia) are grounded in emotional reality. And this is the most female-centric book written by a man that I've ever encountered. The men, while important to the plot, seem to occupy the roles that women are usually relegated to - the love interests. Meridia's father is an adulterer, but it is the effect his adultery has on her mother, Ravenna, that moves the plot forward, not necessarily the man himself. Meridia's husband, Daniel and his father, are little more than ciphers, acting out the whims of Eva - the family matriarch and Meridia's wicked stepmother. And what a magnificent, malificent creation she is!
The story is certainly entertaining but, at 400 pages, it would be well served by the red pencil of a merciless editor. The battles between Meridia and Eva become redundant after about the fourth time Eva finds a clever way to skirt her monster-in-law's evil machinations. There's an emotionally rich, heartbreaking story at the core of the novel that almost gets obscured by the repetitious - and frustrating - plots and counter-plots [and *counter* counter-plots] of monster-in-law Eva and her swarm of malicious bees.
But the simple fact that I felt escalating frustration over Eva's repeated attacks against Meridia's marriage and business, is testament to the fact that I really was invested in the characters and cared about the outcome of their story. There were quite a few times I wanted to take hold of Setiawan, shake him, and say, "Enough, already. Give this poor girl her happy ending!"
For hardcore fans of magical realism, Erick Setiawan is certainly a name to watch. All in all, a promising debut.
Part family drama and part magical realism, this book reminded me of a blend between "The House of Spirits" by Isabel Allande, and "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell" by Susanna Clarke. I thought it was well written, and engaging enough to keep my interest. There is a lot of magic in it....if that's not your thing, probably you won't care for this book. But if you do like books that have moody mists, vengeful bees, and invading flowers, then you'll enjoy this one!
Characters are very well developed and believable. Though painted in broad strokes with overstated kindness or cruelty, they each have a distinct personality and many of them change convincingly as the story goes on. I know this might sound unappealing, but the best description I can think of is a magical Soap Opera. A really interesting and well-written one. The tone is serious, not humorous.
Nothing seems arbitrary about the plot; the author has not cheated or skimped on anything. It starts with Meridia being born and follows her as she grows up, falls in love, marries, and has a child of her own. She is about 30 years old at the book's end. The real meat of the story is Meridia's conflict with her evil, manipulative stepmother, Eva. Eva is the most genuinely despicable character I have read in recent memory. Having grown up in a household with a psychological abuser, I can say with conviction that her behavior is accurately portrayed. There are people who act like this, but fortunately in real life they don't have the power to turn their nagging and lies into a swarm of bees to torment their victims. Eva uses her bees to harass her enemies until they finally give in to her will. I spent the entire book waiting for her to get her comeuppance.
Perhaps because this book hit so close to home in that respect, it often gave me a very uncomfortable feeling while reading it. Some scenes were genuinely distressing.
About five times I noticed a flaw in the language: An odd colloquialism would pop out of the inscrutably timeless prose, and I would notice that it didn't belong. These hiccups were rare, and a less picky reader might not notice them ... but I did.
The biggest flaw with this novel is that it feels too long. It could be because everything is foreshadowed by omens and signs, or else bluntly predicted by the narrative at the beginning of the chapter: "It was later that week that such-and-such happened..." and then the chapter would go on to describe in more detail how those events played out. This was a recurring pattern. Foreshadow, tell, foreshadow, tell. It made for a nice circular structure as elements from the beginning folded into the end, but it made the book more tiring than it needed to be.
The steady pitch of unrelenting anxiety, once Eva enters the story, could also be a factor contributing to my fatigue. It just doesn't let up, and I found myself wanting the book to be over when I still had 100 pages to go.
I finished it, though, and it was worthwhile. This is a really good book ... but not perfect. Ever since "The City and the City" I only give a 5-star rating to books that are perfect. "Bees and Mist" is a very high 4 though. Excellent work, and Erick Setiawan is a talent to watch. Whatever he writes next, I'm interested in reading it.