Craving fiction that could be considered Halloween-ish and haunting (especially since finishing my last read), I stumbled upon Of Bees and Mist and was surprised to see the four-star rating it received! The synopsis captured my interest with it’s description, “an escapist’s delight,” so I hit purchase on my nook and settled in for a cozy read. With enchanting elements scattered throughout the novel as well as a painstaking love story, Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan paints a magical tale of family ties and the secrets that lie behind every man and woman.
Meridia, an only child to semi-estranged parents, grows up knowing only tough love from her mother and no love from her father. She learns about the world with a firm grip from her nurse’s hand and holds no one her age dear, except for the elusive Hannah. Meridia watches her parents’ charades and recognizes it is not normal that her father leaves every night in a mist and returns in time for breakfast the following morning. It is only when she meets handsome Daniel at the Festival of Spirits that she sees her life as whole with her heart swelling with love. Against hesitations from both families, Meridia and Daniel wed and take up residence in Daniel’s family home. It doesn’t take long for Meridia to realize every family is imperfect, and Daniel’s is a shining example of it.
After overcoming her mother’s aversion of affection, Meridia is at first entranced with Daniel’s mother, Eva. She clings to Eva’s boisterous, but friendly facade and appreciates the attention Eva dishes out. But much like the rifts that divide Daniel’s younger sisters, Meridia begins to see the faults of her in-laws and eventually the faults in Daniel. It becomes a full on battle between Meridia and Eva…and with Eva’s most successful tactic of unleashing menacing bees on her family to get what she wants, it looks like Meridia won’t win.
Although this book kept me reading and it had good parts to it, I was sick to my stomach with some of the disturbing imagery Erick Setiawan included. It was not just the descriptions of the bees’ festering presence, but the extra-martial affairs that wreck havoc on various marriages. Just like last fall when I read Valley of the Dolls, I found myself carrying ill-feelings (I acquired from reading) into my real-life, which resulted in me harboring several very depressing moods. It may be the hopeless romantic in me, but I have such a visible reaction to literature that contains cheating, it’s hard for me to look back and say I enjoyed the novel. A day before finishing, I moped around without the slightest idea of what was causing my sadness…it was the book, I tell you. But because I rarely don’t finish a book I start, I chugged on until the end. And I was eased by the somewhat optimistic ending, but only just.
Of Bees and Mist proved to be a fantastical yet timeless take on the strength/stubbornness of women and the strains of marriage. With twists and turns in the plot and multiple make-ups and break-ups, I somehow find author Setiawan unconvinced of the existence of fairytale-like love. But like any good heroine, Meridia lets the reader know there is always room for another chance…for forgiveness, and for love.
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