Following the breakup of her parent’s marriage, Meredith May, her brother Matthew, and her mother move from Rhode Island to California’s Big Sur to live with her grandparents. There Margaret is exposed to her eccentric grandfather’s passion: beekeeping. In her memoir The Honey Bus, May recounts her childhood and teenage years in 1970’s California with exacting detail that is remarkable considering these events began when she was only 5 years old.
On her first day at her new home, May is enthralled by an old army bus her grandfather has converted into a workshop specifically designed to harvest honey. Though she is not allowed to enter the bus for at least another year, it is this first glimpse into her grandfather’s world that allows her to see the possibilities in her new home.
While her mother spirals into a deep depression and ultimately into an abusive relationship with her children, and her grandmother enables her mother further, May finds solace in beekeeping with her grandfather. It is while teaching May how to tend bees and harvest honey that her grandfather explains the roles each bee plays within the hive. With each of these explanations, it seems that her grandfather is able to provide much needed insight into the difficulties May is having with relationships in her own life. It is ultimately through these lessons that May finds a way to overcome the trauma she experiences and to become a strong young woman.
The relationship May has with her grandfather is what really connects the reader to this story. His careful attention to what is happening in her life and his ability to use his passion of beekeeping and all things related to bees to help her overcome experiences of loneliness, loss, and fear illustrate the difference a supportive and attentive adult can have on the life of a child. The most poignant moment comes early in the book when the reader learns that May’s grandfather is actually not her mother’s father, but her stepfather. He makes it clear through his words and actions that she is truly a part of him, even if not related by blood.
Though a remarkable and moving memoir about her early childhood and the important relationship she has with her grandfather, May also uses The Honey Bus to advocate for the protection of honey bees. She provides the reader with a wealth of information regarding the important role honey bees play in nature,
and why it is imperative they do not become extinct.
For those who are interested in bees, enjoy a well written memoir, or simply want to learn about the love between a grandfather and granddaughter, The Honey
Bus is not to be missed.
Park Row Books/Harlequin; 9780778307785; $24.99.
Erin Christmas is an avid reader, librarian and lover of a good contemporary fiction romance. She currently works as the Library Director for the Riverside Public Library. Prior to Riverside Public Library she worked for the Santa Clarita Public Library and San Bernardino County Library System. Erin is passionate about readers’ advisory and loves to match readers with books and books with readers.