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Book Review :: The Bee Sting by Paul Murray

Guest Post by Kevin Brown

The Bee Sting, Paul Murray’s latest novel, set primarily in rural Ireland, follows a family of four that is clearly having a difficult time. Dickie, the father, is in the process of running the family car dealership into the ground, while Imelda, his wife, is trying to understand who she is when she can’t define herself by spending money. Cass, their daughter, begins making some poor decisions around school, due largely to the family’s disintegration. PJ, their son, is experiencing the normal struggles of early adolescence and in desperate need of a friend.

Those problems sound like the setup for a typical domestic novel, but this book isn’t typical, as the bee sting of the title echoes back to Dickie and Imelda’s wedding and marriage, which is much more complicated and fraught than first seems. In fact, all of the characters have secrets that Murray slips out through a variety of flashbacks, as he allows each of the four main characters their own sections, so the reader can see them as they truly are, not as others see them.

That theme of appearance versus reality runs throughout the entire novel, and Murray is not about to let the reader off easy with a tied-up ending that will make it clear how this family fairs. Like all of us, they will continue to struggle, one way or another.

The Bee Sting by Paul Murray. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, August 2023.

Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrite

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