When I received The Bee-Loud Glade by Steve Himmer for review from Atticus Books, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. From the first page, though, the book sucked me in, and I knew I would end up liking it. The Bee-Loud Glade will be published on April 4, just a few weeks away.
About the Book:
As The Bee-Loud Glade opens, we meet Finch, a hermit living in a cave in the wilderness. He has everything he needs: a garden, a river, shelter, basic supplies. It’s been years since he’s encountered another human being, spoken a word, or donned a shred clothing, and he’s quite happy. Not that life is perfect. For instance, he’s beginning to lose his sight, which isn’t exactly compatible with living alone in the middle of nowhere. And then there are the hikers, who have recently wandered into his neck of the woods.
Soon after we meet Finch, he launches into the story of how he became a hermit. It begins on the day he was fired from his corporate job as assistant to the director of brand awareness at Second Nature Modern Greenery, a company specializing in incredibly lifelike artificial plants. Unemployment isn’t kind to Finch; he stops leaving his apartment, makes himself odd mixtures of foods just to see how they’ll taste, and spends hours watching animal shows or staring at the pattern on his ceiling. But just as Finch begins to run out of food, money, and hope, his salvation arrives in the least likely of places.
Finch’s narration moves from his present situation in the woods to the story of how he came to be there. It’s an odd, enthralling, outrageous tale that’s not like anything I’ve read before.
The Bee-Loud Glade delighted me. There is no other word for it. During the few days it took me to read the novel, I immersed myself in it every chance I got. Some of you will remember when I read and reviewed Matthew Dicks’s two novels, Something Missing and Unexpectedly, Milo. Both of Dicks’s books feature quirky story lines, premises that draw you in because they’re so different and clever you just have to find out where they lead. The Bee-Loud Glade had a similar pull for me, also thanks to the novel’s unique plot.
I really enjoyed the story. I won’t reveal more than I’ve said above, as much of the fun comes from watching it unfold. There were moments when I thought, I know where this is going! Sometimes I was right and sometimes not, but I never cared. Even when I’d anticipated a turn of events, I enjoyed hearing about it from Finch. There is also a deeper element to The Bee-Loud Glade, as Finch ponders his life and situation at different points along his journey. I found myself thinking about Finch’s choices and philosophies right alongside Finch himself.
It would have been easy for the central character in a novel like The Bee-Loud Glade to be annoying. Happily, I found Finch to be neither disappointingly trite nor obnoxiously didactic; he wasn’t fanatical or unapproachable. Instead, he struck me as balanced, fairly ordinary, confident enough to follow the path he chose yet humble enough to be lovable. He was the perfect character to tell the story he’s been given. It’s a good thing, too, because the novel rests squarely on his shoulders; there are other characters, of course, but it’s Finch who carries the tale.
I also loved the way The Bee-Loud Glade is structured. It’s fascinating to hear about how Finch became a hermit, but Himmer makes it equally so to spend time with the Finch who has been a hermit for years. I was constantly comparing the landscape of beginning hermit Finch with that of established hermit Finch. I wanted to know how the first world evolved into the second, how the points A and B I’d been shown were connected. I liked the symmetry, too: as present day Finch is re-acclimating to the presence of other people and their world, past Finch is acclimating to a world without those same things. In a way, the structure Himmer chose provides the reader with a view in two directions simultaneously–and it does so very well.
If you enjoy plots that stray from the beaten path, interesting main characters, novels with a bit of depth, and/or stories that explore the relationship between the modern and natural worlds and our place within them, I would highly recommend you give The Bee-Loud Glade by Steve Himmer a try. I doubt you’ll be disappointed; you may even find, as I did, that you’re delighted!
What was the last book that unexpectedly delighted you?