Meridia grows up an only child, in a lonely home as her parents do not speak to one another although they all share the same stark, cold house. When she is sixteen she meets Daniel, a sweet and charming man who she immediately marries. They move into Daniel’s family home, and at first everything is happy, however soon enough Meridia discovers that Daniel’s mother, Eva, is a manipulative, deceitful person who uses magical powers as well as her own personality to control Daniel, his father, and his two younger sisters. As time goes on, Meridia and Eva continue to battle one another in various ways, with Meridia’s parents even coming to her aid from time to time. All of these struggles with Eva only solidify Meridia’s personality as a strong, independent woman who is more than capable of taking care of her own little family.
Reading Of Bees and Mist was the first time I really understood the concept of magical realism. Actually, I take that back – it was the first time I was able to see how effectively magical realism could enhance my enjoyment of a book. This story would have been okay as a basic concept – crazy mother-in-law, fighting for control over her son’s life, and a calm, intelligent daughter-in-law who is not happy to relinquish that control. However, add in the magical elements that Setiawan so expertly weaved into the story, and it becomes a much better book.
I really, really enjoyed this novel. I was swept away by Meridia’s story from the first page and my interest never faded. I really felt for her – she was so desperate to be loved by someone, so desperate to get out of her parents’ home, that she fell in love with and married the first decent man she met. And while Daniel was a good person, he was way too dependent on his mother and controlled by her to the point that he was unable to make decisions of his own or allow Meridia to make any decisions for their family. And Eva – wow, what a character. I mean, she was truly evil. She was such a horrific person, and it didn’t help that she had these weird supernatural powers of control over other people.
I enjoyed how the book spanned about thirty years because I felt like I really got to know these characters and consequently, appreciated their story more for it. Meridia really grew as a person throughout the book and I very much enjoyed reading about her journey to become her own person, the strong and independent woman that she became. I also thought that Setiawan did a great job with Meridia’s parents – slowly showing the reader how their relationship came to disintegrate as it did, and also bringing them back into Meridia’s life at just the right time. Even though there was quite a bit of magic in the book, it felt very authentic and realistic too.
Overall, Of Bees and Mist was an excellent read. It has just the right combination of realism and magic, with great characters to boot. Definitely recommended.