May 21, 2014

BEE SUMMERS by Melanie Dugan, book review

Bee Summers
Bee Summers by Melanie Dugan, published May 15, 2014; UpStart Press
Genre: fiction
Objective rating: 4.5/5

I was taken in by this eleven-year-old girl whose mother left home without warning and whose father became her sole caretaker. A beekeeper, Nate Singer has to take Lissy out of school when he goes on his rounds for a few days or weeks at a time, transporting his bees in their hives to farms away from home. Most of the trips take place in summer, however, during those memorable bee summers. On these trips, Lissy learns more about bee pollination and meets different people to open up her world even more. She becomes closer to her dad and forms a bond with him and some of his friends.

I was less involved or sympathetic with Lissy the adult, who becomes estranged from her father later in life. Lissy only finds out the secrets of her mother after his death. Call it a cultural thing, but it was hard to make the jump from the young girl to the independent adult who hardly ever saw the father she had been so close to as a child. It was also hard to understand the father who let her go.

The book is inviting and moving in many parts, the writing excellent, and the young Lissy and her father Nate both individuals you could understand and sympathize with during the first part and at the end of the book. It's a bittersweet novel of a girl growing up and dealing with a past, the disappearance of her mother, that has always puzzled and haunted her. I heartily recommend this well written book, one that is very much character driven.

Publisher description: The spring Melissa (Lissy) Singer is eleven years old her mother walks out of the house and never returns. That summer Lissy's father, a migratory beekeeper, takes her along with him on his travels. The trip and the people she meets change her life. Over the years that follow, Melissa tries to unlock the mystery of her mother’s disappearance and struggles to come to terms with her loss.

About the author:
Melanie Dugan is the author of Dead Beautiful (“the writing is gorgeous,” A Soul Unsung), Revising Romance, and Sometime Daughter.
Born in San Francisco, Dugan has lived in Boston, Toronto, and London, England, and has worked in almost every part of the book world: in libraries and bookstores, as a book reviewer; she was Associate Publisher at Quarry Press, where she also served as managing editor of Poetry Canada Review and Quarry Magazine. She has worked in journalism, as a freelancer, and as visual arts columnist. Dugan studied at the University of Toronto Writers Workshop and the Banff Centre for the Arts, and has a post-graduate degree in Creative Writing from Humber College. She has done numerous public readings.
Her short stories have been shortlisted for several awards. She lives in Kingston, Ontario with her partner and their two sons.
Here's the book on Goodreads. You can also link up to the author's website. The book is available for purchase here.

Visit the tour schedule for other reviews of the book, hosted by TLC Book Tours

Thanks to the author for a review copy of this book.


  1. It seems father and daughter were very close while she was growing up. Then, they grow distant. Funny how relationships can change. I would enjoy reading this one.

  2. It sounds like the jump in time that you describe in the plot is disconcerting. Things do change so unexpectedly over time. However a novel needs to be believable.

  3. The cover of Bee Summers is lovely. This does sound like an interesting read, even if Lissy was hard to understand.

  4. Tea, Brian, Naida: call it a cultural thing - my unwillingness to accept this kind of parent-child estrangement, though I know it happens.

  5. I think the audio just got an award with my favorite female narrator: Orlagh Cassidy

  6. I'm very curious about the secrets surrounding her mother's disappearance. Nice review!

  7. The cover's wonderful and it sounds as if you enjoyed the book, although you found the estrangement unacceptable. Thanks for sharing your honest thoughts.

  8. Great review Harvee. (Pretty cover.)

  9. What a challenge for a little girl to deal with ... I'm interested to see how she turned out in the end!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

  10. Hmm,... I did not find the same to be true for me, as I felt it was the bottled up anguish Lissy had against her father's inability to communicate with her about her mother's exit from their lives that strengthened her choice to leave him as an adult. She simply shut down emotionally from the years of silence that encroached on their relationship. For me, I felt the author justified this in how she slowly explained the transitions of each of their choices; his to re-marry without much consideration on how that would impact her life and her choice to relocate to NYC a bit too far to commute home, and how that separation would affect him.

    You can only live life moving forward and I think that is simply what Dugan was trying to express. That characters in stories can reflect the mistakes that humans make as well. No one escapes life without muddling the everyday hours, and for me, it felt honest and real as it was revealed, but as you said, it could be cultural difference and to that I yield to your judgement.

    Jorie's Review of Bee Summers


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