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A Recipe for Bees    by Gail Anderson-Dargatz order for
Recipe for Bees
by Gail Anderson-Dargatz
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2001 (1999)
Hardcover, Paperback, CD, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Sally Selvadurai

Bees have played a pivotal role in Augusta's life, providing her with a sense of stability and continuity she might not have found otherwise. Augusta has had a great deal to cope with. Her mother died early and she herself married young. Her husband, Karl, a very retiring soul, was several years her senior. They lived with Augusta's widowed father-in-law and worked his farm. This was not easy as Augusta was made to feel an intruder into the bachelor ways of Karl's dour, Swedish father, who also reduced his son to a quivering mass of insecurity.

Trapped in this nightmare, Augusta turned to her church and the Reverend for help and gossip in their small town flourished as she and the Reverend spent Saturday mornings fishing. Augusta's feelings for the Reverend were truly those of friendship, but perhaps his went deeper. With the Reverend's encouragement, Augusta took an 'outside' job, working in Kamloops a few days each week. She had a tumultuous affair, but it ended when Augusta realized that someone from the local town had spotted her. However the affair brought Augusta lasting happiness through her daughter Joy, whom Karl accepted unconditionally as his own.

The story weaves back and forth between past, present and future. We meet Augusta in the evening of her life, plagued by a body that no longer matches the youthfulness of her mind. Her musings and threads of thought jump from one place and time to another pulled together by, of all things, an apiary and her experiences with bees.

Anderson-Dargatz takes us expertly into the mind of an elderly woman who has much to reflect on in her past. However the book has no strong sense of place - while set in Canada's westernmost province, it could have been written about almost any faming community in North America. Despite this, A Recipe for Bees is worth reading for its depiction of Augusta, a credible and intriguing old lady with much in her that is admirable.

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