Of Bees and Mist: A Novel

Of Bees and Mist: A Novel

by Erick Setiawan

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Overview

Erick Setiawan's richly atmospheric debut is a beautiful, engrossing fable of three generations of women in two families; their destructive jealousies, their loves and losses, their sacrifices and deeply rooted deceptions, and their triumphs.

Of Bees and Mist is a fable of one woman's determination to overcome the haunting magic that is created by the people she loves and the oppressive secrets behind their broken lives. Raised in a sepulchral house where ghosts dwell in mirrors, Meridia spends her childhood feeling neglected and invisible. Every evening her father vanishes inside a blue mist without so much as an explanation, and her mother spends her days beheading cauliflowers in the kitchen. At sixteen, desperate to escape, Meridia marries a tenderhearted young man. Little does she suspect that his family is harboring secrets of their own. There is a grave hidden in the garden. There are two sisters groomed from birth to despise each other. And there is Eva, the formidable matriarch whose grievances swarm the air like an army of bees—the wickedest mother-in-law imaginable.

Erick Setiawan takes Meridia on a tumultuous ride of hope and heartbreak as she struggles to keep her young family together and discovers long-kept secrets about her own past as well as the shocking truths about her husband's family.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781416598480
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 08/04/2009
Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 665,452
File size: 473 KB

About the Author

Erick Setiawan was born in Jakarta, Indonesia, to Chinese parents and moved to the United States in 1991. He is a graduate of Stanford University and currently lives in San Francisco.

Hometown:

San Francisco, CA

Date of Birth:

February 15, 1975

Place of Birth:

Jakarta, Indonesia

Education:

B.A. in Psychology & B.S. in Computer Science, Stanford U., 1998; M.S. in Computer Science, Stanford U., 2000

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Of Bees and Mist 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 230 reviews.
Adeline79 More than 1 year ago
Erick Setiawan's debut novel Of Bees & Mist will take you on an epic journey to a mystical place. Prepare to suspend your disbelief and be jolted to an unfamiliar time and place where your imagination will be required to work overtime. This new author's creative skill is unquestionably evident in his evocative imagery which will have you really hearing the buzz of angry bees, smelling the lingering scent of verbena and finding your vision obscured by colored mists. This dark fairy tale features many engaging characters but mainly traces a character called Meridia. She grows up in a cold, lonely and loveless home full of deceit and humiliation. During her childhood she struggles to uncover the mysteries of her parents' marriage and the mists which strangle their home. When Meridia marries she moves into a new home that is not what it initially appears. She is forced to engage in an ongoing war with her spiteful mother-in-law in order to preserve herself and the love of her husband. Over and over again she must reach inside herself and connect with her inner strength in order to survive. There are many bizarre elements in this book which can be interpreted metaphorically or literally. The strange occurrences seem to dramatize the dynamics within a dysfunctional family and describe negative emotions as they would look if released visibly. The mist which hovers over the house also hovers over the book in general. I loved the ambiguity of the time and place in which the book is set. The more questions a good book evokes in our minds the better. I enjoy a book that is open to numerous possible interpretations because you can interact with it more. You can play with the ideas, language and setting in your own mind and build upon the scaffolding put up by the author. Of Bees and Mist is such a book. Setiawan's book depicts the universal theme of good against evil. It has a very dramatic feel in the way it slowly builds up to a crescendo. His unique interpretation of the theme places the battle in a fantasy realm and on a domestic scale. Essentially this book is about real family relationships; the hate, jealousy, betrayal, manipulation and ultimately love that binds people together. Of Bees & Mist is a timeless book that not only invites numerous readings but will echo in your subconscious long after you have savored every word.
libralady More than 1 year ago
In his debut novel, Erick Setiawan tells the story of two families, three generations brought together by marriage. This is a story of love, hate, heartache, betrayal, long buried secrets and strength. It is a story of complex relationships between husbands and wives, mothers and daughters, a mother and son and a young woman and her new in-laws. The author uses mysticism, fantasy, magic and symbolism to describe the day to day events in the lives of these two families and the methods they choose to cope with their stuggles. His unique writing style draws the reader deep into the story from the very beginning. There are some twists and surprises and the ending is not predictable. This is a book that will stay with you long after you read the last line of the last chapter.
EbonyAngel More than 1 year ago
First off, the cover of this book is amazing. The story is timeless. The magic is interwoven so seemlessly that you could really believe it. The symbolism in this book really kept me on my toes with meaning and double meaning. This book is a fairy tale for grown-ups. Although the main character of the story is Meridia, how she grows up, marries young and becomes a strong women in her own right. Erick Setiawan did a remarkable job in also telling the story of Ravenna, (Meridia's mother) and Eva, (Meridia's mother-in-law) and how all three shaped the lives of their families and those around them. Mr. Setiawan's style of writing was easy to follow and made this book a totally enjoyable read.
nfmgirl More than 1 year ago
Of Bees and Mist opened up a world previously unknown to me. A world where women can grow herbs out of their arms and chest, mist haunts the front door, and men can swallow vegetables whole and spit them out chopped, seasoned and pickled. There was something almost fantastical about the writing style. For some reason, as I read the book, which flowed with a surrealism and slight goth-like feel, I was reminded of children's stories like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (atleast the happy Gene Wilder movie version) and Neverending Story. You know how I can tell that I really like a book? I find myself taking notes while I read, wanting to make sure that I quote a favorite passage and get down my feelings at a particular moment. Much of my review on a "great book" is written during the reading of the book, so everything is fresh. I did that a LOT with this book. I guess this book wasn't really anything like I expected, and quite honestly if you were to give me details about it ahead of time I probably never would have read it. I wouldn't have expected to find a book written with such fantastical flavor, and which at times can be somewhat dark and heavy, so charming. Really a lovely and impressive debut by Mr. Setiawan. I look forward to seeing what rabbit he has hiding up his sleeve next. I jumped right into this book without really even taking in the cover art. Someone in the book discussion pointed out all of the hidden pictures to be found in the cover art-- pictures that are like little windows into Meridia's life. This book follows the often sad and bewildering life of Meridia, swallowed up in a world reminiscent of a Harry Potter book. You really feel for Meridia, and just want to take her in your arms and shelter her. You keep waiting for someone to do this. "Where is her protector?", you keep wondering in frustration. "Where is her shelter from the world? Her lee from the wind? Will no one be her champion?" I've said in the past that I'm not a "book club" kind of gal-- that I don't want to sit around and discuss books and symbolism. I just want to read a good story. I have to say that this book has shown that not to be entirely true. This book is FULL of symbolism, and I found that I LOVED it. Additionally it was a wonderfully good story and kept me totally absorbed. A remarkable debut novel, and highly recommended. Love it, love it, love it!
katknit More than 1 year ago
Of Bees and Mist is a fairy tale for adults, full of fanciful features meant to symbolize pieces of the life of the main character, a young woman named Meridia. It is also something of a coming of age story. While many readers seem to find the book enchanting, for me the "magic" and metaphors were ludicrously exaggerated. Meridia's life is a misery from first page to last. Her parents come across as barely human, and they raise their daughter in a cold, misty void. Meridia's only "friend", Hannah, is obviously Meridia's inner self, the strength that lies buried within. Her husband is spineless, her mother in law a gross caricature of a harpy from hell (she's the one with the bees, an endless, malevolent supply of them.) The more minor characters are treated as pawns. For me, reading Of Bees and Mist was a bleak, disagreeable experience. I cannot recommend it, but would suggest to those considering giving it a try that they read the positive reviews as well, before making a decision one way or another.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Meridia's home contains all types of magical spells and demons; not all kind. She thinks she will escape her hell of her dysfunctional battling parents when she falls in love with her knight in shining armor. She knows Daniel will rescue her. However, Meridia had not counted on his family especially his mother making her parents look harmonious. Eva is abusive to everyone but especially her new daughter in law. She uses bees as spies and weapons of mass destruction. Her treatment of others including Meridia has her finally fighting back as Daniel fails to intercede between the two women in his life. This is an interesting adult fairy tale parable that exaggerates Meridia's overall purity and the evilness of her parents and mother-in-law; the spouse is a wuss who chooses neither side in the extended family war of good and evil. Ghosts and killer bees add excitement to the mix, but Meridia as victim in her parents' home and Meridia as victim in her husband's home is too frequent with little respite as Erick Setiawan argues that adhering to the Golden Rule does not mean others will likewise. Still sub-genre readers will enjoy the war between the mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law while the man who links them stays docilely neutral. Harriet Klausner
TiBookChatter More than 1 year ago
Of Bees and Mist falls into the 'magic-realist' fiction category and I have to say, that I don't think that I have ever read a book quite like this one. Meridia falls in love with Daniel and moves into his family's home. There she encounters Eva, the mother-in-law from hell. Eva is so wicked and vile that when she goes to work on you, bees fly out of her mouth to attack you. Needless to say, her words sting quite a bit. Elias, her husband is good at heart, but has a terrible time living with his wife and fights are a daily occurrence. At first, Meridia tries her best to get along with her mother-in-law, but all that ends when she has her own child and sees Eva for who she really is. This of course causes all sorts of problems between Meridia and her husband, Daniel. Reading this book was like taking a trip to the circus. Not the circus you and I know today, but a circus from years past. The colorful tents, the jugglers, the musicians, the smell of circus food wafting in the air. This book had a FEELING to it. Every time I picked it up I felt as if I was taken back in time to this magical place. I really enjoyed it. The only criticism I have is that the Meridia/Eva battle seemed to go on a tad too long and it sort of overshadowed the interactions between some of the other characters. Overall, I was charmed by this book and wonder what Erick Setiawan is working on next.
marciliogq More than 1 year ago
I got this book in First Look Bookclub and have to say I liked it too much. What to say of a woman who buzzes like bees and a house full of mists? A man who hates his child and for years doesn't talk to his wife? A mysterious atmospehere rounds all the book. If you like stories full of magical powers, fables, rounded of adventures, love and overcomings so this is the story you have to read. An absorbing book!
happyreaderKK More than 1 year ago
If you like mystery, magicalyt powers, and a good love story then this book will be for you. I liked the main character Meridia. She is strong and knows what she wants. The love story between her and Daniel is excellent and to be admired. My mother in law looks good compared to Meridia's. I am anxious to read other books from this new writer.
pagese More than 1 year ago
I signed up for the Barnes and Noble First Look Club to receive this book. Although completely outside the realm of what I normally read, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I was a little confused at first, and wasn't sure I would like this book. But, I gave it a chance. The characters were rich, although not everyone of them was pleasant. The story was easy to keep wrapped up into. I enjoyed the magic elements, which felt to me like the could be part of everyday life. I felt like the characters were easy to identify with even with the magic. I liked that the story could have taken place anywhere and anytime. Overall 2 thumbs up for a great debut book from a new author.
anan More than 1 year ago
The beginning was confusing for me. I realized that I had to let myself be "in the story". Then I was able to understand and appreciate the characters. All the characters were strong; and I found myself projecting what would happen only to be surprised later. It was an exciting story and I look forward to other works of Mr. Setiawan.
Carms More than 1 year ago
This is my first First Look Book Club experience and it was very interesting. The book was different from anything that I'd read before. When I began, it seemed very too slow. I kept hoping that there would be more action, less of the sadness. Fortunately, the book became more absorbing as Meredia took more control over her life. I enjoyed reading about her "becoming normal" and her friendships with her new neighbors after she moved into her own home. I think that not everyone will like this book, but those who do will truly enjoy it.
Jac8604 More than 1 year ago
Meridia grows up in a family where her mother and father both treat her horribly. Her parents seem to forget that Meridia even exists. She then meets Daniel and hopes that her life will change for the better. She moves in with Daniel's family and soon things are worse than they were with her own parents. Daniel's mother is wonderful at first, then her true colors start showing and Meridia is stuck between her husband and her mother-in-law. It is a war and both women are determined to win... I am probably the only person on the planet who didn't just love this book! I thought it was just plain strange. There are lots of unusual things happening in this story from mysterious mists, to swarms of bees, and all kinds of other strange things. I got frustrated with the never ending obstacles facing Miridia-she goes from one battle to the next. She never seems to catch a break and it gets old after a while. The characters were vibrant and very real, but the story just didn't do it for me.
fordmg More than 1 year ago
I started this book with an open mind. It had a magical opening with a haunted house covered in mists. However, the story line did not live up to expectation. It is neither a fairy tale or a myth. It is a story of a couple of dysfunctional families and how they destroyed each other. The ending was anticlimatic. There was no "moral" as in fairy tale, and it did not give a mythical tale to explain "This is how........."
pen21 More than 1 year ago
For a first book, it has some strong points. Erick has weaved scents/fragrances theme that evoke strong memories and feelings throughout the story. A strong set of characters cemented the storyline. The best is the character of Eva as the epitome of the evil in-law. I was disappointed in the ending because I would have liked Eva to have a stronger part in the ending. The book could have weaved the magic/mysticism with the real life of the characters better to keep the flow. The characters were so strong that sometimes the mysticism seemed superfluous. I liked that the fragrance theme was continued out til the last section. I liked the fragrances and I thought that the use of fragrance was done well throughout the book.
kpud More than 1 year ago
Meridia lives in a world that weaves midevil times (there are no cars), present (there are telephones) and magic. I was sucked in instantly by the wonderful writing and imagery throughout. Meridia is a lonely child who doesn't have much contact with the outside world until she meets Daniel at a street fair at the age of 16. She falls in love with him instantly and they marry. At first, everything is wonderful, but soon enough her mother-in-law intrudes upon their happiness. Meridia, using skills learned from both her mother and her mother-in-law, is able to withstand the barrage of torment while remaining a sympathetic character. The story may be a little cliche, but I felt the characters were well-developed and believable and I had a hard time putting this one down.
dk_phoenix More than 1 year ago
I have to say, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect with this one. It was billed as an 'adult fable', set in a world similar to ours but where magic and mysticism was real. Surprisingly, it wasn't hokey or overbearing... in fact, the world of the book was exactly like ours, but for a few supernatural elements that fit into place as smoothly as, say... that final Christmas tree ornament that doesn't distract from everything around it, but simply pulls everything together and makes it look complete. The story follows three women and the men in their lives, and I was surprised at how well Setiawan was able to write sympathetic female characters. I can't say the book was entirely driven by a central plot, more like a central idea... and at times I felt like I was simply observing the lives of people rather than being engaged in a story, and yet... it worked. I kept reading. I was intrigued and wanted to see where it went, what these bizarre people would do next, and how they would manipulate each other over and over again. I'll admit it - I haven't quite figured out yet what the point of the whole thing was, but I do know that I put the book down with a pleasant feeling of time well spent, and a knowing that I would easily recommend it to others. If you want to know more about the story itself, perhaps read a synopsis on the website here, as I don't want to give away too much about the people within its pages before you get to know them on your own.
frisbeesage on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Of Bees and Mist is a magical tale of love and jealousy between two families across three generations. There are haunted houses, vengeful bees, concealing mists, and every sort of magic, good and bad, that you can imagine. The writing is richly descriptive and lyrical and the characters are drawn in detail with full, fantastic histories backing them up. Magical realism is a favorite genre and I enjoyed Of Bees and Mist. It did seem that Setiawan was a bit unnecessarily harsh on his characters, the calamities are unrelenting and even the best of people can't seem to catch a break. They don't seem to learn much as they fight the same battles over and over throughout the book. Still, the characters were unique and interesting and the writing beautiful. An original debut novel, I look forward to seeing what Erick Setiawan writes next.I listened to the audio version of the book and Marguerite Gavin captures the character's voices well. The swarms of bees and enchanted, enraged men especially come across in her narrative interpretation.
Sarah.C.Hagan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I LOVED this book and it is one of my top 10. The characters and setting easily came to life in my mind and I really felt like I got to know the characters, which I find important in any great book. Hannah¿s character leaves me wondering if she was real or was part of Meridia `s imagination when she needed her. Beautiful metaphors, beautiful book. I think of it as an adult fairy tale/magical realism, but it isn¿t so much that should turn people off that might not care for something in that genre. I really wish it wouldn¿t have ended. I can¿t wait for what comes next from Erick Setiawan.
liisa22 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Of Bees and MistI had the opportunity to read Of Bees and Mist as part of Barnes & Noble's First Look club. I like magic and fantasy, but this book did not 'do it' for me. Yes, I read it all, and went back to re-read parts to see what I was perhaps missing that other readers were getting from it. I never did find that magic. I did find that the over-exaggeration of magic and metaphors got me les and less 'enchanted' with it. Of Bees and Mist is a fairy tale for adults. It is also somewhat of a coming of age story for it's main character, Mederia, and her miserable life. Her parents were virtually non-existent for her. Meridia's only "friend", Hannah, was/is too obviously Meridia's internal hopes and dreams. Her husband is spineless and lets his mother dictate his life. I cannot recommend reading Of Bees and Mist, despite the many good reviews. However, you may find the magic that was missing for me.
turtlesleap on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Setiawan's debut novel presents a world in which strong emotions can manifest as a physical phenomena, where spirits are real and quite taken for granted and where magic is as real as cruelty--and as ruinous. In Meridia, the author has created a wonderfully strong positive female character, balanced by an equally strong negative in the form of her scheming and malicious mother-in-law, Eva. Most of the remaining characters, while sympathetic, are significantly less dimensional. The chief charm of the book lies in the way Setiawan has applied magical realism to what is, essentially, a series of tragic and interlocking domestic dramas. I will look forward to future work from this author.
PattyLouise on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Of Bees And MistByErick SetiawanI don¿t think that I have words to describe this book. I can honestly say I have never read a book like this before. Ever. In my entire life. I can not even begin to tell you what kind of book this is. I think to accurately describe it I could say it had every mystical thing in it other than vampires and werewolves. There was a huge amount of unexplainable mysterious stuff going on in this book. The mist was the first oddity¿the bees came much later. The mind of this author is quite an astonishing thing. I have no clue how he put all of this together into the literally spell binding piece of literature that I have been reading all week long. I feel a bit empty now that I have finished it. I will attempt to briefly highlight the story.First of all there was the birth of Meredia. And since that was not normal at all it sort of set the scene for everything else that happened. Meredia was a huge character in the book but there were so many other huge characters. Really. Tons of them. After reading this book I am not even sure of the era. There was so much magic and mystery that I did not even care but I think it was a long long time ago in a far away place...almost positive. It was a story of families and love and nightmares and magic¿this ever pervading unexplainable magic. The magic was everywhere. And¿to be truthful¿not all of the magic was good¿it was frightening and surprising. It is also a story of families and love and a horrible evil. And I think it is a story of one woman¿s strength and beauty and courage among so many things that could send the best of us under the covers. Now that I have totally not explained this book¿I can honestly say I loved it. It sort of made me queasy in the beginning but I learned to love this story. I felt caught up in it and spun around by it and totally taken over by it.The author is amazing, the book was stunning, and I can¿t believe I am finished with it. I wasn¿t quite ready for it to end.So¿what do I think you should do? Hmmm¿if you love an intense story¿you should not pass up this book. If you love a quirky magical story¿you should definitely read this book.This book is my own personally purchased Kindled copy.
Jenners26 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Book OverviewOf Bees and Mist takes place in a world that is like ours but not quite. In this world that is betwixt and between, we come to know Meridia¿a lonely girl who grows up in a freezing cold house with a staircase that takes on different forms, a stern and distant father who vanishes and reappears in mists, and a loving but absent-minded mother who speaks her own secret language. Meridia struggles to understand the coldness of the house and the odd relationship between her parents. A recurring dream seems to hold the key¿but whenever she is on the brink of discovering the meaning of the dream, the mists, and her parents¿ behavior, something prevents her from learning the truth.One day, Meridia attends a local fair filled with spiritualists and seers. Just 16, she finds herself drawn to a handsome young man named Daniel. When fate seemingly brings them together, Meridia is overjoyed to find a way out of her lonely life. Daniel¿s family seems to have everything Meridia has been searching for¿including a beautiful and involved matriarch, Eva. Although Daniel and Meridia¿s romance face some stumbling blocks, they eventually marry. After the wedding, Meridia begins to realize that her new home might not be as wonderful as she thought. It starts with missing wedding presents and slowly escalates as Eva methodically assets control over Meridia and her life.But Meridia¿s mother has taught her to be strong, and when Meridia begins to assert herself, Eva finds she has met her match. As tensions escalate and the war between Eva and Meridia worms its way into the next generation, each woman uses all her considerable skills and magic to defeat the other¿uncovering long-buried family secrets and almost destroying each other in the process.My ThoughtsThis book has such a different feel that it is hard to describe the sense of familiarity and strangeness you get while reading. Setiawan never really defines the world where Meridia is living¿it seems similar to ours yet is filled with magic, witchcraft and strange beings. This is a world where the evil mother-in-law gets her way by sending out a swarm of buzzing bees to fill her victim¿s head with malicious and destructive thoughts. A world where a husband might turn out to be a demon, and swarms of fireflies can extract vengeance for a wronged party. Yet although conflicts may be fought with magic and spells and the scent of verbena, the characters are dealing with very human issues¿adultery, betrayal, cruelty, frigidity, and competition. I think if Setiawan had chosen to tell his story in a more conventional way, it would feel utterly familiar¿a husband seeks solace in a mistress when his wife turns frigid, a new marriage is threatened by competition between wife and mother-in-law, a son who sides with his mother against his father. Yet the book becomes more than a ¿domestic drama¿ by the author¿s choice to set the drama in such a strange and fantastical environment.In some ways, Of Bees and Mist feels a bit like a fairy tale. Yet, at the same time, the magic aspect is treated as commonplace and ordinary. I suppose that makes it ¿magical realism¿¿along the lines of books like Alice Hoffman¿s Practical Magic or even John Connolly¿s The Book of Lost Things. If you enjoy these ¿of our world but not quite¿ books, Of Bees and Mist would be quite a treat. In the end, I found it to be an involving domestic drama where conflict was settled with bees, mist, fireflies and moments of pure magic.
Jennifyr on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I picked up Of Bees and Mist on a random perusal of the book store, and immediately jumped into it with relish. The story is a fairy tale just outside the realms of the real world, standing timeless in the past, present, or future. Setiawan uses wonderful physical entities (mist, bees, fireflies, cold) to describe human emotion, suffering and conflicts. The writing is strong, provoking, and inspirational. The author doesn't talk down to his readers, and lets you decide what is real, what is symbolism, and how you feel about each character he presents to you. I can only hope that Erick Setiawan writes another novel, and another, because the only disappointment in this book is when you finish the last sentence and you have to find another book to top the masterpiece of adult fairy tale that you just read.
ssweaver975 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very imaginative first novel. The type of story that keeps you thinking long after you've finished reading it.