Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan

August 12, 2009
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Of Bees and Mist
Erick Setiawan

Simon & Schuster
8-12-09
Hardcover/404 pages
ISBN: 1-4165-9624-0
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". . .a unique view of love, marriage and life."

Of Bees and Mist: A rich world full of miracles, loss, magic and love.

Ravenna held her cold, blue unresponsive daughter in her arms and told her to breathe or squeak. She asked if her daughter thought she was too good to live. Meridia didn't cry or squeak. She merely breathed.

Just before Meridia's first birthday, in a brilliant flash of light, the house where she was born becomes cold and no fire or amount of clothing can keep the inhabitants warm. Mists gather at the front door, and Meridia is handed over to a nurse. Ravenna mutters a dark private language in the kitchen where she cooks, and her father Gabriel held court in his den. Gabriel is a towering, elegant and sneering giant who disappeared in a yellow mist each evening and returns for breakfast each morning in a blue mist while an ivory mist menaced any who dared approach. Meridia is invisible to her parents, but not to the apparitions that taunted her from the mirrors in the mansion on Monarch Street.

A solitary child, Meridia suffers from nightmares of a dark night when a flash of light ends in a scream. Her only friend is the over protective nurse who keeps her away from people and filthy germs. As the years pass, a red-haired girl named Hannah comes briefly into Meridia's life and opens her eyes to a world of wonders that one day carries Meridia from the cold house on Monarch to a house on Orchard where the hot oppressive sound and smell of buzzing bees tests her limits.

In a timeless world of enchantment, Erick Setiawan's Of Bees and Mist is a unique view of love, marriage and life. Instead of worn out cliches, Setiawan breathes new life into the miracle, banality and horror of marriage, creating new expressions from old, fashioning an Aladdin's lamp of wonders.

Meridia is a sad waif who wants to be seen and loved, hungry for every scrap of affection, aching from the cold world of her youth. Stepping into a patch of warmth, the first touch of love carries her on a journey of the soul. Setiawan's understanding of human nature merges with this fairy tale setting to create a world of mystery and shadows with an oriental flavor that is alive with poetry and pathos.

Of Bees and Mist is rife with memorable characters and marvelous descriptions. Shakespeare's shrewish Kate has met her match in Eva with her buzzing bees. Cold, aloof Artemis could not brave Ravenna's determination and arctic chill. Don't let the first few pages fool you into tossing this gem aside. Marvels are scattered among these pages.

 

Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell

 

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