The Bee-Loud Glade begins with a man and his lame job. He's a blogger- just kidding - I mean, he is, but it's not like that. He works for a company that manufactures artificial plants, and he is hired to blog about the product under the guise of many different customers. He doesn't do much, and eventually his employer figures it out. And then he is without job, until a very strange opportunity comes his way: the opportunity to be a hermit for hire in a very rich man's very beautiful garden.
Reading the first pages of this book, I knew I was going to like it. And I really did. It's pretty early to say, but I could see it being a favorite of the year. Himmer's approach to addressing concerns about the drudgery of work, and disconnection with the environment feel so entirely fresh (even though it does have a folk story or allegorical quality that other reviewers have pointed out). I haven't read a book like this one before. The voice of the narrator is spot on, and his evolution in the garden feels authentic. The themes in the book are also the ones that I really like to read about. There is a whole lot in here about artificiality and illusion, and how the search for the authentic is impossible. Finch, the narrator, must wade through so many layers of illusion in his life to find what is meaningful experience: fake plants, fake bloggers, a fake garden filled with surveillance, etc. And it is only as he goes blind that he begins to reach the core of experience that he is seeking.
Although the book could have been nothing but pages of contemplation on the issues that I bring up above (and I probably would have still liked it), it isn't that. The book is well-plotted. I didn't want to stop reading it, and I wanted to know what was going to happen next. I liked Finch, and I felt with him as he passed through trials and tribulations on his path to his own personal enlightenment, which, like I said, is nothing like anything you might read in a self-help book. Highly recommended.
Title: The Bee-Loud GladeAuthor: Steve Himmer
Publisher: Atticus Books
Where I got it: From the publisher in exchange for my honest review, through Net Galley
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