HE SHOULD HAVE TOLD THE BEES by Amanda Cox
GENRE: Contemporary Women’s Fiction (Christian)
RELEASE DATE: August 29, 2023
Uncovering long-held family secrets may sting at first–but the result can be sweeter than honey
Beekeeper Beckett Walsh is living her dream, working alongside her father in their apiary, until his untimely death sends her world into a tailspin. She suddenly finds she must deal with a new part owner of the family business–one who is looking to sell the property. Beck cannot fathom why her father would put her into the position to lose everything they built together.
When Callie Peterson is named in the trust of a man she’s never heard of, she’s not sure what to do. Her fledgling business has just taken wing and her mother has reentered her life asking for help getting into rehab for her lifelong substance abuse issues, making Callie’s financial situation rather . . . precarious. She’s sure she has no right to someone else’s farm, but the money from the sale could solve her problems and give her the stability she’s always craved.
As these two women navigate their present conundrum, they will discover a complex and entangled past full of secrets–and the potential for a brighter future for both of them.
“It seemed the fate of Walsh Farm was now in the determined hands of a sassy sock alien.”
Callie Peterson and Beckett Walsh at first glance seem to be women from vastly different life experiences. One raised by a father who loved her deeply, changing his whole life to offer her stability. The other moved from place to place by an alcoholic mother who left her daughter to fend for herself more often than not, stability a distant dream. One grieving the sudden loss of her father. The other struggling to pay for her mother’s latest stint in rehab. And yet… as Amanda Cox deftly weaves their paths together and unpacks their individual layers, readers begin to see that these two hurting young women aren’t quite so different after all. I loved Callie and Beckett and saw a little of myself in both, a testament to the author’s talent since I don’t have many shared experiences with either of them.
He Should Have Told The Bees reveals its secrets in a bit of a slow-build yet it reads fairly quickly – in large part due to Cox’s warm storytelling style and the engaging characters she’s created. I was captivated from the very first paragraph, and I couldn’t put it down until I was done. In fact, while I was very satisfied with the ending, I could easily have been content spending hours longer with these characters and what may be next for them. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention precocious Fern who basically stole every scene in which she appeared. Her sassy, imaginative self – a heartfelt mix of little girl and ‘wiser than her years’ – absolutely delighted me and was responsible for most of my big grins while reading this book. Especially the scene where she and Beck meet Callie and Luke. Oh my goodness, I laughed out loud! For that matter, I loved all the supporting characters, even the complex Lindy, and of course the subtle romance threads for our intrepid heroines (Luke! Isaac!) made my heart happy.
“It’s possible for treasured things to come out of the brokenness. Even if it doesn’t happen the way any of us would have wanted. Even if it comes through loss.”
The author’s experience as a professional counselor (as mentioned in her bio) not only makes the characters come vibrantly to life on these pages, it also makes the emotional subplots hum with authenticity and certain scenes (like with a therapist or the rehab facility) feel more heartfelt. To be sure, the story deals with some weighty issues such as substance abuse, child neglect and abandonment, trauma, assault, panic attacks, divorce, and loss. But Cox doesn’t ever let it get too heavy, supplementing the narrative with humor and love and growth. Lots of growth. The faith thread is neither preachy nor trite; rather, it supports the characters – and readers – like a gentle embrace that whispers truth straight to the heart.
Bottom Line: He Should Have Told the Bees by Amanda Cox is a beautiful portrait of love, loss, trauma, grief, growth, and healing. Multi-dimensional characters share space with profound truth as well as wit and warmth, and the faith message is tenderly presented. I found the beekeeping scenes to be fascinating – one of the most poignant scenes with Beckett reminded me of the stories my dad told about raising bees as a tween/teen. The day to day life on the farm, as well as the moments when Fern, Isaac or Luke interacted with Beck and Callie, provided uplifting breaks from some of the weightier themes, and the balance Cox achieves here is just right. An absolute must-read!
Reviewer’s Note: Readers of this blog may want to be aware that some of the themes in the novel, while handled with lots of discretion and grace, may still be triggering for some readers.
(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. In the interest of full disclosure, the company for which I freelance as a blog/review tour coordinator was hired to promote this book with a social media tour at a later date, with which I have no involvement. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)
My Rating: 4.5 stars / loved it!
Amanda Cox is the four-time Christy Award–winning author of The Edge of Belonging and The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Bible and theology and a master’s degree in professional counseling, but her first love is communicating through story. Her studies and her interactions with hurting families over a decade have allowed her to create multidimensional characters who connect emotionally with readers. She lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with her husband and their three children. Learn more at AmandaCoxWrites.com.
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