Book Review: Stick to “The Hive”
Melissa Scholes Young, the author of the acclaimed novel Flood and Scrap Metal Baby, wields her storytelling magic to create The Hive. It’s an astonishing narrative about a mother and her four daughters surviving the aftermath of the patriarch’s passing.
I received an ARC of The Hive from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
The Hive follows the women of the Fehler family. Grace Fehler, Robbie’s wife and the mother of four daughters, spends her marriage being a prepper. Robbie, the head of the family pest control business, guides her and their daughters so that they can survive America’s collapse. When he dies from a heart attack the reality of the business’s finances surfaces, including bankruptcy and the passing of the company to a male relative.
Young unravels the stories of the Fehler women through alternating third person chapters. While Grace deals with an affair from before Robbie’s death, the four Fehler sisters (Maggie, Tammy, Jules, and Kate) struggle with their own challenges. Jules faces the decision to drop out of college because of the tuition bill she’s unable to pay. Tammy, pregnant with her boyfriend’s child, tries to keep her secret hidden. Maggie struggles to keep the family business afloat. Kate, the youngest and a closeted lesbian, copes with her grief by visiting the library and then a dog whisperer named Val.
The Hive takes place on the edge of the 2008 federal election. Robbie and his employees blame the economic recession on Democrats and believe in staying with America’s conservative values. Of course, this causes tension among Robbie and his daughters.
For instance, Jules’s experiences during her time at the University of Missouri challenge the views in her Missouri hometown. Her boyfriend Niko (Black and Japanese) appears at her father’s funeral, spreading shock and curiosity among family and neighbors. Kate, however, has strived for her father’s approval. Her part of the story revolves around her searching for her future in books and through Val.
Young does an excellent job of portraying the various ways the Fehler women grapple with their father’s passing and their crumbling business. Her writing seamlessly weaves the lives of the Fehler women together, carefully crafting their narratives and dynamics. Issues involving racism, class, and misogyny are sensitively explored.
In this novel every sentence and scene matter. Young doesn’t waste a single word, and her characters come to life in just a sentence, from someone’s reaction to an offered napkin to the feel of curls brushing someone else’s neck. It’s a riveting novel about the meaning of survival and the bond between sisters.
The Hive comes out on June 8th from Keylight Books.
Author: Brahidaliz Martinez
Brahidaliz (pronounced Bra-da-leez) is a 2019 graduate of American University’s MFA in creative writing program. Their cross-genre chapbook, Coquí’s Song, is forthcoming (2023) from Mason Jar Press.
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