Thanks to the lovely people at Simon & Schuster, particularly Kelly, I had the wonderful opportunity to review the new paperback edition of Erick Setiawan’s novel, Of Bees and Mist. I didn’t know what to expect from the novel, seeing as it appeared to be a story of family bonds, love, and the supernatural. After reading it, I found it to be more about family bonds than love and the supernatural, but overall it was an enjoyable and at times, magical novel.
Detailing Meridia’s childhood and her attempts to unravel her mother and father’s hate for one another, the beginning is more of a set-up and establishes Meridia’s family dynamics. I had trouble getting through it, but once Meridia grew up, married Daniel, and moved in with his family, the story began to draw me in.
To me, Of Bees and Mist is a very character-driven story and it relies on the characters’ interactions and relationships to move the plot along. One aspect I noticed to be prominent is how the characters grow. Meridia starts off as a lonely, introverted girl, but as soon as she becomes trapped in the affairs of Daniel’s family, she quickly learns to be more assertive and in control of her life. She is a very strong female character and I applaud Setiawan’s choice to make her as strong and independent as she is. Other characters that display similar and noteworthy growth are Meridia’s mother, Ravenna, and Daniel’s sister, Malin.
One character that I loved is Daniel’s other sister, Permony. Subject to her mother’s verbal cruelty, Permony’s place in her family resembles Meridia’s, which makes their friendship and bond all the more believable. Permony takes her mother’s abuse with strength and enough dignity to not give her mother the satisfaction of seeing her daughter break down. Despite her upbringing, Permony always shines as a girl full of love and imagination.
The confrontation scenes were my favorite and they were by far the most alive. Ravenna and Meridia’s ability to cut people down with their words, silencing and shaming them, is quite entertaining and, in a sense, inspiring. They held onto their beliefs and opinions with such strength that they wouldn’t let anyone sway or change them.
Speaking of confrontation, Daniel’s mother, Eva, is often the cause of such scenes. She’s an intolerable woman who thinks of no one but herself. Setiawan painted her in such a cruel light that her character is one that readers will secretly like because she is so evil. In a way, her character symbolizes the horrors of having in-laws. ☺
The supernatural elements, the bees and the mist, don’t seem to have a real place in the novel. Although the mist is tied to Meridia’s family secrets and the bees to Daniel’s, I don’t feel there is a need for them in the novel. Maybe I didn’t read enough into the mist and bees, but I felt they’re presence isn’t expanded and explained enough to make them significant to the novel.
The writing, however, is one thing that cannot be disliked. Setiawan certainly has a way with words and his writing adds to the magic and beauty of the novel. His writing is very poetic and he makes beautiful use of personification and other figurative language. I often found myself stopping to marvel at the way he described something, wishing I had the talent to shape words like he does.
Overall, the slow beginning and the lack of the supernatural prevented me from loving Of Bees and Mist. I did, however, thoroughly enjoy the second half of the book. The characters are all wonderful, as is the writing, and once the story gains its momentum I couldn’t stop reading it. Erick Setiawan’s Of Bees and Mist is currently available and is now available in paperback. For more information on his writing, please visit: