A young woman seeks deep purpose in life despite her highly visible physical flaws in this introspective religious novel set in late ’60s-early ’70s California.
People have avoided protagonist Debbie Walsh throughout her life because of her facial deformities, hunchback and pronounced limp. Nevertheless, the active, bright woman in her late 20s buzzes about with a sunny attitude while pursuing her dream of being ordained in the Catholic Church despite obvious discrimination against women.
Subplots explore her sister Ruth’s troubles with a philandering husband and issues with dying bees within the beloved hives maintained by Debbie’s father. Laced into the story line is Mélissa, a personified honeybee whose life parallels that of Debbie’s and whose running commentary explores the complexity of Mélissa’s life in the bee colony mingled with astute observations regarding human failings.
While the author demonstrates sound knowledge about bees and theology, information that is intriguing for readers, the story line is thin on drama or palpable tension, causing it to gradually leak air like a spent balloon. Often, the dialogue feels artificial because many characters’ voices sound too similar to one another and their speech is unnaturally grammatically correct. The narrative also includes some misspellings (example: “Peace Core” for “Corps”).
Oddly, the most interesting voice emerges from the sympathetically drawn honeybee. “I am all alone now, too tired to fly home with my last load of pollen and nectar . . . I gave it all I had, but now I feel no desire to leave this velvet rose. Where will the September winds carry my soul?”
In addition to the detailed information on bees and theology, the book’s biggest asset is its underlying message encouraging readers to look beyond personal flaws and trust in themselves to find their intended roles in life. Those seeking inspiration will be its best audience.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.