The Murmur of Bees
Sofìa Segovia
Amazon Crossing 2019
Translated by Simon Bruni

Sofìa Segovia’s magical realism novel, “The Murmur of Bees,” is masterfully absorbing, and laced with delicious prose. Her characters are likewise captivating, so their journey becomes very personal.

The story is narrated by Francisco Morales’ son, Francisco Junior, who as an old man, returns to and recalls his roots in the Mexican town of Linares. His father, heir to vast lands in Mexico, and his aristocratic wife, Beatriz, adopt a child abandoned under a bridge, surrounded by a swarm of bees, face deformed, upper jaw opened from the corners of the lips to the nose. “Simonopio’s arrival” marked the family “irreversibly,” Francisco Junior tells a taxi driver who takes him home to reconnect with Simoniopio. “We would not understand this until we looked back on it from far in the future.” 

Anselmo Espiricueta, who rented land from Morales, suggests the child was aligned with the devil and should be killed. The struggle between compassion and kindness of the Morales family, and the evilness of Espiricueta is the backbone of this family saga. Simoniopio would call it the battle between a lion and a coyote. 

When Simoniopio arrived, Morales was already struggling to keep his land, the Mexican Revolution was underway, and soldiers would pass through Linares, causing alarm as they stole or raped women and confiscated land. Then in 1912, as Spanish Flu wipes out most of Linares, the Morales family moves to Hacienda La Amistad where they are safe from the highly contagious disease. Espiricueta remains in Linares where his wife and two his children die, an event he blames on Simoniopio. 

. . . an extraordinary read.

As Simoniopio ages he spends time following “his beloved”  bees, and has premonitions of events before they happen. He encourages his godfather to plant orange trees to ensure the property is used, and not confiscated under Mexico’s new Agrarian Land Reform Act. Later in life at age 38, Beatriz gives birth to Francisco Junior, who Simoniopio vows to keep from harm. The two become inseparable, developing their own way of communicating, unfortunately, Simoniopio is unable to protect the Morales family. 

Segovia skillfully melds historical events and Mexican traditions, coupled with vividly drawn characters and images. Her novel, originally in Spanish and translated by Simon Brunian, is an extraordinary read.