As Publishers Weekly put it, “… Anderson-Dargatz’s (The Cure for Death by Lightning) latest is a warm and wise love story, an exploration of the extraordinary as revealed in everyday lives.”
As Augusta Olsen awaits the outcome of her son-in-law’s surgery she reminisces about her long and never-dull life. Augusta is both extremely gifted and headstrong. She inherited from her mother her gift of clairvoyance and her ability at bee-keeping. Unfortunately for Augusta, with her unusual outlook on life, at 18 she marries Karl, a shy man older than she who takes her away to his isolated farm in British Columbia. Augusta quickly learns to resent his taciturnity and his lack of sexual finesse. Determined not to despair, Augusta tries various friendships, work in town, and a brief affair. Eventually she causes her family’s move from the farm, after which she takes up bee-keeping again, the “ointment for her soul.” Her starting of this business re-connects her to the community and sparks changes in her marriage. Augusta realizes that as she has aged she is able to look on her life differently.
Some things to consider:
2)I was struck by similarities that I could see between this book and Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver. In Prodigal Summer, Lusa, a talented scientist gives up her career to marry a farmer and try to make a life in an isolated Appalachian community. Most of the book takes place after she is widowed, but Lusa does a lot of self-searching and looking back on her marriage, which, like Augusta’s, was troubled by her husband’s taciturnity and his apparent inability to understand her. Each husband expressed his love through “a simple gesture he had been planning for a day or two, a message contained in flowers.” Lusa’s husband, for instance, sent her a message across the fields from his tractor when he refrained from cutting down “her” honeysuckle.
3)Prodigal Summer contains many story lines; but, both books contain a lot about small town life and gossip. This could be an aspect of both books you could bear in mind while reading and discussing them.
4)Another possible topic of discussion could be the author’s treatment of farm life. Are they sympathic towards the lifestyle, even though their heroines have difficulty with it? Does life on the farm in some way mold the characters?
5)Prodigal Summer has a great deal in it about farming, crops and orchards, and growing things, and also about the wilderness and about a family of coyotes. The background of A Recipe of Bees is beekeeping. I enjoyed all the lush details. What do you think they contribute to the books?
Here is a link to the publisher’s discussion guide for A Recipe for Bees.