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Queen Bee

Review

Queen Bee

QUEEN BEE by Dorothea Benton Frank is filled with quirky characters, magical bees and, at the center, a woman who is trying to figure out where she belongs. Holly McNee Jensen has always felt like the odd one out. Her mother, lovingly --- and not so lovingly --- referred to as the Queen Bee, adores Holly's older sister, Leslie. Holly always seems to do things wrong.

Now, Leslie is married and living elsewhere with her wealthy husband. Holly is at home taking care of her mother, who treats her like something between a nurse and a personal chef, and there is no gratitude for anything she does.

Holly is a nurturer. She nurtures her mother and tenderly cares for her bees, talking to them about her life. While some people have their dog or cat to confide in, Holly has her bees. And as things come to a boil in this story, she will need those bees and the comfort she gets from sharing her troubles with them. And the bees? They come through for Holly.

"It is certainly a perfect beach read and will jump start anyone's summer with its descriptions of fragrant summer afternoons with bees lazily visiting flower after flower and wide, blue ocean views."

Holly's neighbor, Carin, died almost a year ago, leaving her husband, Archie, and their two rambunctious boys to fend for themselves. Holly has been acting as their caretaker and, yes, nurturing the boys. She loves them, babysitting for them and feeding them. She also has begun to have a hankering for Archie, a professor who may have a PhD from an Ivy League school but doesn't have much common sense in real life. When the boys tell her that their dad has a girlfriend, Holly is discouraged. After meeting Sharon, she is furious.

Sharon is not the motherly type, and Archie, far from realizing this character flaw, has absolutely no idea. In between caring for the QB (Queen Bee), her actual bees and the neighbor's boys, Holly decides to get a job. She's been on the waiting list to teach at the local elementary school, but in the meantime, she wants something that will get her out of the house. Publix hires her to work in their bakery department, and she finds that she enjoys decorating cakes.

Then life gets interesting. Leslie arrives home with (at first) shocking news about her marriage and her husband. Holly's bees seem to listen to the problems she shares with them and eerily, perhaps even magically, act on them. In fact, the book could be titled "Life as Seen Through the Eyes of Bees," since almost every chapter begins with an interesting tidbit about bees and how they relate to life. For example: "There's only one queen bee in each hive," Holly tells her young friends, "because somebody has to be in charge."

And when Holly explains to the boys, "One of the things that amazes me about honey bees is how they will all take care of each other. They're selfless. They feed the queen, they hunt and forage for each other, they take turns guarding the hive. Amazing," one responds, "They're like you, Miss Holly."

The fact is that bees work for the common good and are not selfish. They literally give up their lives for the good of the hive. And while Holly is a nurturer, she comes to realize that sometimes you need to stand up for yourself. But the most important lesson she learns is to accept that she's pretty impressive just the way she is.

There are changes aplenty for this group of three women from Sullivan's Island in South Carolina. Frank's story is sweet and, at times, magical. It is certainly a perfect beach read and will jump start anyone's summer with its descriptions of fragrant summer afternoons with bees lazily visiting flower after flower and wide, blue ocean views.

Reviewed by Pamela Kramer on May 31, 2019

Queen Bee
by Dorothea Benton Frank

  • Publication Date: May 28, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow
  • ISBN-10: 0062861212
  • ISBN-13: 9780062861214