Tuesday, January 06, 2015

The Honey Thief

This fall I installed a Little Free Library in my front yard.  For anyone who might not be familiar with Little Free Library, it is an organization that promotes and supports small "take one, give one" libraries in yard, parks, and other public places.  To be honest, my reasons for wanting on were not entirely altruistic.  I need somewhere for the "ink and paper" books I've read to go, and I can only give so many at a time to my public library.  But, of course, the universe has other plans for me than neat, orderly, not-stuffed-to-the-gills bookshelves.  It's that whole "give one" part of "take one, give one" that gets me.  Because while its true that the books I read go to good home (rather than my overstuffed bookcases), they are replaced with other books!  Clearly, my house is meant to be a permanent fire hazard.

There are, of course, upsides to this arrangement, like getting to know my neighbors as readers, and
watching the neighbor kids come running to see if there is anything new in the library for them.  But the biggest, without doubt, is that books appear before me that I would never have found on my own. Such was the case with The Honey Thief, by Elizabeth Graver.  It tells the story of eleven year old Eva, a city girl exiled to rural upstate New York after a brief crime spree as a shoplifter.  In desperation, her mother Miriam gives up her job, finds a subletter for their tiny Manhattan apartment, and hightails it out to the country.  Eva spends her days riding her bike down isolated roads, blacktop and dirt, while the babysitter her mother hired sleeps on the porch in the heat of the day.  One day while riding, Eva comes upon a table full of honey, glowing in the sunlight.  Her inner conflict (should she steal it or not) causes her to come back again and again to the small farm, where she gets to know the reclusive bee keeper, and where she learns about the importance of balance and harmony, in the life of the bees, and in the life of her family.

It can be a challenge for authors to write adult novels with child narrators, but Graver manages it pretty well.  There are also chapters told from the point of view of the bee keeper, and of her mother, but it is Eva's chapters where the real emotional pay off is for the reader.  I found myself rooting for Eva, even when she made choices that were not necessarily in anyone's best interest.  Graver also manages the fact that Eva is a girl child and the bee keeper an adult man in a way that is neither creepy nor inappropriate (though there is one scene that verges on ewwww).  All in all, I'd say The Honey Thief is a pretty good way to spend an afternoon.

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