These, then, were Eva's half-memories. Of words but not their meanings, of a sweater but not the face above it. Of a box, the corner of a room, the scratch of wool, but never a whole father, or even a whole mother the way she'd been before. These were among the things she hoarded, like the nail files, key chains, and pink erasers she kept hidden in a shoebox, her loot. Because mostly, she didn't remember...
Critics across the country hailed Elizabeth Graver's first novel, UNRAVELLING, as "exceptional" (The New York Times Book Review), a "pleasure" (The New Yorker), and "exquisitely poignant and sensual" (The Boston Globe). Now, Graver turns her talents to a contemporary novel about a woman and child who find that they cannot move ahead with the future until they can look clearly at the past.
The summer that eleven-year-old Eva is picked up on her fourth shoplifting charge, her mother, Miriam, decides that the only solution is to move from Manhattan to a quiet town in upstate New York. There, she tells Eva, they can have a "normal" life. But what Miriam doesn't tell her daughter, or anyone else, is that Eva's stealing scares her for a different reason, one related to a past she has been trying to ignore.
As tensions mount between mother and daughter, it is, oddly enough, Eva's secret frienship with Burl - a reclusive beekeeper who lives down the road - that ultimately helps the two find their way back to each other.
THE HONEY THIEF is a haunting, lyrical novel about the shadow the past casts on the present, the workings of memory and desire, and the healing powers of unexpected friendship.
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"The first time a store manager called about Eva, Miriam had thought it was a mistake." Eva Baruch, 11 years old, has been caught stealing three times. The fourth time, her widowed mother takes drastic action and moves them from their East Village apartment to a small town in Upstate New York. Miriam explains that their new home will allow them a "normal" life; at the root of her decision, however, is a nagging fear that Eva's kleptomania is just the beginning of a bigger problem, "the snag in the stocking that leads to the run, the computer virus (it had happened in the law firm where she worked) that becomes visible too late." The transition is not easy for either of them: Miriam works long hours to support herself and her daughter, while Eva must weather the twin storms of loneliness and impending adolescence. Then Eva meets Burl, a former lawyer who has withdrawn into the isolation of his grandparents' farm to raise bees.
For a while he had sat around cooking up grand plans--a cooperative farm, sustainable agriculture, or a commercial beekeeping operation, maybe even migratory hives that he'd load into a semitruck and drive across the country, following the bloom. Or an ostrich farm. He liked how odd they looked, somewhere between bird and beast, and they were supposed to be the new, low-fat red meat. Sometimes when he let his thoughts wander far enough, he'd had a farming and business partner who was also a mate.Unfortunately, the woman of his choice has married someone else, he's let the farm go to seed, and now he makes a living writing how-to books and tending his hives as a hobby only. When young Eva comes into his life and begins helping with the bees, however, he is drawn reluctantly into her life and that of her mother.
Elizabeth Graver throws these three isolated people together and then wisely steps out of the way to let them work on each other. As the story moves forward, she allows her characters to look back, gradually weaving in memories that explain Burl's choices and Miriam's fears. Best of all, she avoids the obvious resolutions; instead, The Honey Thief plays out much as life does--messy, painful at times, with no guarantees but plenty of reason to hope. --Alix WilberAbout the Author:
Elizabeth Graver is the author of HAVE YOU SEEN ME? and UNRAVELLING. Her work has been included in Best American Short Stories and Best American Essays, and in two volumes of Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards. She teaches at Boston College.
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