After reading with my daughter The Girl of the Limberlost (click here) and loving it, I resolved to read more by Gene Straton Porter, but haven’t until now. This author, who died in a car crash in 1924 before The Keeper of the Bees was printed, wrote ten novels that have sold more than ten million copies. I can see why.
I give this book five stars. It is mostly remarkable for it’s thorough niceness, so rare among the contemporary novels of our day. There is a moral message here, but not too heavy handed, and a plot with appealing characters that make it engrossing but completely pleasant reading. I particularly like this author’s support for the spunkiness of her female characters: she values it as something good, important and normal!
This story is about an ailing serviceman, returned from WWI, who walks out of a hospital that is not helping him, preferring to find his own road to healing. Instead, he follows his own natural inclinations for interfacing with the natural world and delighting in it’s boundless treasures. He is healed finding love and purpose, something other than himself to think about, being of service to others, and enjoying a nutritious diet out of his garden. This all unfolds quite intuitively, but not without some surprising twists and turns. In the end he gives God the credit for making him a whole, happy man.
The writing is not only profound and amusing, but informative as well. I learned about bees, for example: “There are 4500 different kinds of wild bees,” and “100,000 kinds of plants that would not live any more if all the bees were blown away or burned up or something.” (This is particularly interesting to ponder in our present day when these bees are becoming endangered!) All the bee detail in the novel culminated in this bit of dialogue: “One time I asked the Bee Master if I couldn’t see God and if I couldn’t touch Him, how was I going to know that He was here. And he said, ‘Because of the hair on a bee.’” There is much appreciation in this novel for the intricacy and beauty of God’s design.
Here is a sample sentence from this book that is a jewel among many, “In fact I have a feeling that the damaging things of this earth are going to go past a mind that is fully occupied with something legitimate and constructive.” It is such a delight to read a story with a happy ending sprinkled with glowing bits of illumination and moral integrity!