Like Bees to Honey

by Angela Guillaume

Today I'm going to write something a little different. I had promised a friend, who also happened to be a talented author, that I would write an honest, unbiased review of one of her books. Almost a year has passed since I made that promise, and I decided to share my views and insight with you here.

Caroline Smailes is a Brit, albeit not to the bone, because deep in her heart is lodged her love for her Maltese roots. And she shows this in her book, Like Bees to Honey - she displays a unique bond to the land of her ancestors. I had the good fortune of meeting Caroline last year while she was holidaying in Malta with her charming, beautiful family consisting of a supportive, kind and gentle husband and three very bright, extremely well-mannered and beautiful children who rarely stopped smiling. By that time I had read her book, which struck a deep chord in me especially because when I read it, I had just had my son less than a year earlier.

Like Bees to Honey is a bittersweet, gritty story about the astonishing power of healing. This power is innate, yet, we often have to remind ourselves of it. When adversity washes over us and carries us away, we need all our experience and bravery to pull out all the stops and let them catch us before we drown. This is what happens to Nina, the central character of this story. Disowned by her Maltese conservative family for getting pregnant while studying in England, she is torn from her roots, from the world she knows. When her son dies in an accident, she feels detached from life and she cannot live with the guilt. We wonder if she will ever survive it.

By going back to the home of her childhood, she seeks reprieve from the numbness that has pervaded her being since her loss – she seeks solace, but she also wants to finally feel pain. Perhaps she also wants to disappear in this world, to finally cease to exist. Throughout, she feels guilt for failing her husband and little girl, for not being the wife and mother she ought to be. She wonders if this loss is her punishment for being bad and not following the morals that had been instilled in her since her early years.

I wanted to let time pass between reading this book and writing this review. Sometimes we feel so much emotion after getting to the last page that we need to create a sense of detachment – just like Nina – and be able to look at this work of literature with objective eyes, unbiased by the cloud of emotion.

Or so we think.

Because no matter how much time passes, the theme of loss – especially that of a mother losing a child – stays with us, in our thoughts, despite the many times we try to shirk it off and act unaffected. We switch on the TV and hear tales of such loss on a daily basis. We open our mail, we open Facebook, we open the newspaper, and read obituaries of someone’s child who never had the chance to live, to love, to even brush against the many discoveries, joys and burdens of adulthood. I heard a story recently of a family who gave birth to a baby girl one day only to lose their elder of two a mere couple of days later. How can we explain this to ourselves, to others? How can we even live after this?

Caroline Smailes gives us the answer. She sheds the spotlight on this crushing pain from the eyes of the one person who most violently feels the ravaging destruction of it. First comes disbelief, then numbness, then guilt, and finally, we get to face our demons and grieve.

So exquisite, so heart-wrenching, so real. This is the gift that Like Bees to Honey gives us. It is not an easy read, and it’s not meant to be one. It’s a book that lays bare our feelings and tosses them about like your insides after you hop off a roller coaster. Ms. Smailes tells us that after the storm, the calm waters will come, although life will never be the same after you awake to the knowledge that surrounds you.

Yet, in the end, despite such horror – the most terrible one can imagine – there is hope for a future. This is a book that tells us that from the very depths of hell one can catch a ray of light that leads one back to the top.

What more heartening message could there be?

So basically, we do get a fulfilling ending - one filled with hope. One interesting feature about this author is her use of space on a page. You will find letters and words printed in haphazard, completely unconventional ways, but all of this is essential to the story... and to the spectrum of emotions it represents. We find an appearance by a very "hip" Jesus, who plays his role as wise guide perfectly for the distraught and confused Nina. This is not a novel only for Christians, and it is not a religious novel - it is a story for everyone. It is about being human.

I hope you get to purchase a copy of this book and let me know what you think. Written in an easy, fluid style to counter disjointed thoughts and emotions, it's worth the time. The author packs a lot of punch in very few pages. I'm sure you've never read anything quite like it in the literary genre.

You may purchase this book from Amazon and all the major book retailers. The Book Depository offers free shipping worldwide. There's even a Kindle version [here].


  1. Reading this makes me believe I have to get this book, Angela.

    Thanks for posting!

  2. Hmm seems to be a conflict of interest to me, lol. That's probably why it is so good and positive.
    I just had to do book reviews for one of my 4th year english courses so we were docked marked if we weren't revealing to the potential readers the negative aspects of the writing.
    However, academics aside, this sounds like a promising book!

  3. Thanks Murissa and Zee. I don't normally read books like the one I reviewed so if I find one I like I just have to share my thoughts :-).


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