The Bees by Laline Paull

Flora is a bee who does not fit in. Her kin dictates that she must be a sanitation worker because she is large, ugly and inept at doing any other task. Flora longs for more, she yearns for love, knowledge and the chance to serve her Queen but she is restricted by the rules of the hive. The beehive is segregated into different castes; nurses, foragers, sanitation workers, guards and the priestesses who serve the Queen of the hive. When her home is in danger of starvation Flora rises to the occasion and becomes the first sanitation worker to become a forager. Through her courage, perseverance and honesty she changes the dynamic of the beehive and the trajectory of her life. Bees is a story about a hive divided and a lone bee determined to save her home.

An interesting aspect of this story is that the Bees hold a god like reverence for their Queen. They know their sole purpose in life is to serve and obey for the livelihood of the hive and thus upholding the caste system is of the utmost importance. It was fascinating and at times a little disconcerting to read about a society such as this because it brought to mind how we treat those who are less fortunate. We don’t have caste systems per say or a god like adoration for our government but we do have a tendency to shun certain people in society based on their profession or economic standing. I could have been reading too much into it but I felt that Laline was making a larger comment on society and how perhaps we need to be a little less judgmental and a lot more selfless in how we treat those who we feel can do nothing for us.

I’ll be honest with you, I wasn’t terribly excited to read a book about bees but boy am I glad I did. The novel is insightful and brimming with amazing imagery about the world from the perspective of an insect that we rarely have nice thoughts of. The seductive dance of the bees to obtain pollen, the intimidating traits of a wasp and the foresight of spiders, Paull writes with a strong voice and with riveting attention to detail. She makes you forget that you are reading about the life of a bee and leaves you heavy with emotion as Flora experiences love, heartbreak and loss. It’s a book about Bee’s but it’s really a book about so much more. Read it and see for yourself.

I received this book courtesy of the Afterword Reading Society.

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