The Murmur of Bees
In a world where people feel that they are entitled to a certain life comes a story told in many different voices from a place riddled with unwarranted deaths, soldiers that wrongly accuse and kill for folly and event take the food and crops cultivated by a hardworking family man, claiming it’s for the government. The time period is the Mexican Revolution, the atrocities described are real and the research is extensive. But this is just part of the storyline as we learn about old Nana Reja, who sits in her chair and nurses many children. But what happens when she leaves because somehow, she realizes that there is a child left abandoned under a bridge and she brings this precious boy home. Covered with bees as if they are both his blanket and pillow, his name is Simonopio and he although some think he is cursed due to his malformed face, some think he was killed by the devil, Francisco and Beatriz Morales love him as if he’s their own and adopt him into their family. Things happen and different voices are heard as we get to know Francisco who tends to his harvest of corn and loses it to the soldiers who pilfered every stork. Fear enters his heart and fighting back would be certain death. Next, Beatriz father is wrongly accused of aligning with the enemy and is shot for no apparent reason. Others face the same fate but when Beatriz tells her story and we get to know that she came from a rich and privileged class, wanting the best for her daughters, resenting sending them to the convent to be safe from harm and kidnapping, we learn that she is trying to create a social event that most would rather not.
Simonopio has a warm heart and gifted in many ways. Although he has difficulty communicating and telling his thoughts, fears and wishes somehow Francisco Junior manages to understand him. He is part of the Morales family and his eyes are the window to his thoughts and journey. He sees what others cannot and visions of all that will come both good and bad he can foretell. Fear is something most relate in this novel and yet he is blanketed by bees all the time and they follow him around as a barrier to protect him. His goal is to protect his adoptive family and hope that they survive what the author has created as highly explosive times. Added in we learn of the many deaths due to the Influenza of 1918. The time period is volatile, and the Mexican Revolution provides the fear.
Francisco is a plantation owner and loses everything to the solders. Yet, he is determined to rise above and wants to move to Monterrey and start over again. But, will his wife allow this to happen. Francisco Junior is born later to his parents and they seem to bond. Simonopio and Francisco seem to be able to communicate. The bees talk to him and never sting or harm him, yet they seem to forewarn him of what will happen. Protective of his family and godparents and extended family he faces challenges due to his facial deformity but somehow his brother understands him.
There are many voices heard within this complex novel as each one relates their own experiences. We learn more about Simonopio and the meaning of the bees how they help him see and understand the world and how without them is insight and vision to what happens around him and how to stop bad things from happening to his family, revolve around having the bees.
They seem to have a certain murmur or music to them as if their voices are filled with their own sounds coming from their hives even though at times they remain there. Each member of the family focuses on his/her daily strife’s and one-man Anselmo Espiricueta resents that he’s forced to live on land he does not own, cannot leave when the influenza epidemic begins because he did not caution or stop his wife from going to buy him tobacco. Thinking that Simonopio is the devil and cursed we learn more about this man when the author devotes several chapters and we hear his thoughts, his anger, resentment and even though Francisco gives him a house, a job and food for his family, his anger wins out. Added in Beatriz Morales feels isolated when they move into La Florida which has no electricity, no modern conveniences and Francisco gets his two daughters from the convent, insists they remain home and their behavior is appalling, unyielding, rude and disrespectful to not only their father but their mother who tries to communicate with them and teach them to sew.
Simonopio goes with Francisco to clean up the house for Anselmo’s family and finds a special sewing machine that is antique and old but provides hours of love and tranquility for Beatriz who can create fashion and other things from the material they found for her. Added in we learn that one of her daughters has been communicating with a young man and she is forced to keep her secret. The Morales family is strong, hard fast and each member has their own story as Francisco Jr. tells his related to Simonpio and their relationship and how he realizes that this boy or his brother as he feels towards him has a special connection to his mother and his father.
The gravedigger is no longer alive, the one doctor has written messages to the family and yet there is no way to send him their thoughts. No more post office, no one to run the school, many businesses are closed, and everyone needs to find a way to fend for themselves as the Morales family returns to Linares, but the reception is not what they would expect.
Things are difficult, lives are lost, bodies are still left outside, the new gravedigger has many to deal with and the Dr. has visits to pay. But, miraculously, Simonopio’s faking his own illness with the flu saves the family, forced them to flee to La Florida and his miraculous recovery never gave them a thought as to why and how it happened. Many obstacles are still in their paths as Simonopio learns the changes that will take place in his life, the fact that he can no longer sleep in Reza’s bed and he must learn not to fear the night. Without the bees at times he feels alone and lost yet when we learn more about him, we realize that he can and will survive.
Listening to many of the others and learning that Carmen, the daughter has many suitors but one that the family would get to know even if it meant buying land in the town where this young man lived. Carmen hid this from her father for a long time and the result is that she won the battle and her wishes.
But, the author flashes back to many scenes that occurred before and we get to know more about the doctor, the new gravedigger and the resentment that Anselmo projects throughout towards the Morales family. Anger wages, threats are cast but what will the outcome be for so many? A story of hope, survival, fate, death, unfortunate events, a war that took lives, fears that more would not be able to survive and the fact that fathers had to be weary of their children left alone or even walking at night unattended. A story of strife and the will and hope of survival.
Family dynamics that changed, Simonopio’s behavior helped members of the Morales family flourish and by accompanying Francisco on many trips’ changes to the family’s lifestyle and how he provided for them led to many learning more about this amazing child. Threats loomed but stayed dormant and each character’s stories dealt with survival, anger, frustration and yet with so much good in their lives they never really took the time to appreciate each other. Mother and daughters were never close. Rehashing the weddings, the birth of her grandchildren, Beatrix never smiled or enjoyed life, only wanting to please others never finding her own way in life.
With a younger brother now that he could communicate with, both boys had a language all their own and each one was able to help the other as Simonopio teaches his younger brother about the voices and music of the bees.
The story continues and the struggles and obstacles are many and one man is determined to take it all away at all costs as revenge and hate loom in the air.
Events sometimes happen and things pass before you have a chance to process them or the outcome as Francisco is blindsided, Francisco Jr. is missing and Simonopio has a decision to make. When the final reveal is known and Beatriz learns of his fate, her whole world is shattered, things take on a different turn and she must decide between life and death. Leaving her home, losing her land and finding a new way the author completes each journey in a different way. Beatriz, her mother and Nana Reja move in one direction, while even though Francisco Jr. is with them, he seems there in body but not in mind. Just where does Simonipio wind up and what happens at the end will help readers understand the murmur, the music and the sounds of the bees. Two brothers very different in stature, nature and beliefs yet able to communicate in ways that no one else could comprehend. Deceptions, betrayals, desertion and finally two minds that would be blended in the end until one. If you listen carefully, smell the oranges, the sugarcane, the fields filled with corn and the magic of the music they hear as you the reader along with the help of Simonipio will understand the sounds and the messages relayed when you listen to the MURMUR OF BEES so graphically and vividly depicted by author Sofia Segovia.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews