By REGINA M. ANGELI
When it comes to prologues, Lisa O'Donnell's bestselling novel, "The Death of Bees," grabs your attention like being stung by a killer bee.
The opening lines begin with an obituary of sorts of Eugene Doyle and Isabel Ann Macdonald and concludes with:
Today is Christmas Eve. Today is my birthday. Today I am fifteen.
Today I buried my parents in the backyard.
Neither of them were beloved.
Thus begins O'Donnell's critically acclaimed debut novel "The Death of Bees." (Harper, 311 pages)
Somehow the term "dysfunctional" does not quite do justice to the depraved Doyle-Macdonald clan. Fifteen-year-old Marnie and her younger sister, Nelly, have faced a hellish existence living in the rough side of Glasgow, with their incestuous, drug addicted father, who wishes to abandon the family and run off with Marnie's young friend, and an alcoholic mother.
When their parents die under most unnatural circumstances, Marnie refuses to summon the police, presumably to protect her younger sister from being forced into a foster home. Yet one wonders whether there might not be something more sinister at work.
The fate of their parents unfolds in this gritty novel. Ultimately, the sisters' secret is discovered by their next door neighbor, Lennie, whose dog digs up part of the father's skeleton.
In one of the most hideous ironies, Lennie, a convicted sex offender, becomes the source of stability for the girls and "rescues" them.
Told from the perspective of the girls and Lennie, the work is well-written, laced
with the scathing sarcasm of the precocious Marnie.
The relationship of the two sisters, who protect and support each other despite their abysmal homelike, is quite touching though this is one "family plot" which is not for the faint of heart.