If you've finished our "GMA" Book Club pick this month and are craving something else to read, look no further than our new digital series, "GMA" Buzz Picks. Each week, we'll feature a new book that we're also reading this month to give our audience even more literary adventures. Get started with our latest pick below!
This week's "GMA" Buzz Pick is "The Music of Bees" by Eileen Garvin.
Garvin's debut novel follows three strangers who are each working through grief and life's twists and turns in a rural Oregon town. All three are brought together by a local honeybee farm where they find friendship, healing and the courage to start over when things don't turn out the way they expected.
The story follows 44-year-old Alice Holtzman, who is stuck in a dead-end job and is reeling from the unexpected death of her husband. While she turns to the honeybees she raises in her spare time for comfort, she still begins to develop panic attacks whenever she thinks about how her life hasn't turned out the way she's dreamed.
While carrying 120,000 honeybees in the back of her pickup truck, Alice begins to feel another panic attack coming on and nearly collides with Jake, a troubled, paraplegic teenager. Jake ends up becoming Alice's lifesaver and develops a genuine interest in bees.
Alice also meets 24-year-old Harry, who has debilitating social anxiety and applies for a part-time job on Alice's farm. As Alice, Harry and Jake begin to develop an unexpected friendship with each other, they're forced to unite when a pesticide company moves to town, threatening the local honeybee population.
"'The Music of Bees' is a story about three lonely strangers who meet by chance on a bee farm in Oregon," Garvin told "GMA." "Each has been wounded by life, but through the bees, and their unlikely friendship, they find hope and healing. I think it's an uplifting story and I hope you do too."
"The Music of Bees" is available now. Get started with an excerpt below.
- 1April 23, 2021
Alice Holtzman would have rated her mood below average even before she hit the wall of traffic. She blamed the young imbeciles at Sunnyvale Bee Company in Portland who had mixed up her order, which had delayed her departure and landed her in this late-afternoon sea of cars and trucks.
Things were always crazy on Bee Day, an annual event in April, and she acknowledged that. After all, the Sunnyvale Bee Company saw hundreds of millions of bees move through their yard on that single day. When Alice arrived, she saw hundreds of bee packages awaiting pickup. Each small, screened crate held ten thousand bees, all buzzing with confusion at their recent sorting in the bee yards of southern Oregon from whence they came. Hundreds of beekeepers would descend on Sunnyvale to claim their bees on an average Bee Day, so things could get hectic.
The car in front of her crept forward and slammed on its brakes. Alice exhaled through her nose with impatience. She looked at her watch and sighed. She had called two days before, like she always did, to reconfirm her order with Tim, the cheerful shop manager who'd been there, she knew, for more than twenty years.
But this year Tim hadn't answered the phone when she called. Instead a young woman picked up and identified herself as Joyful.
"How can I help make your day amazing?" she'd asked.
Alice gave her name and order number while wondering if Joyful could possibly be her real name. Joyful had assured her that all orders would be filled as usual and that they would be thrilled to see her in two days. She hadn't actually refused to look up Alice's order, but she hadn't looked it up either.
"Be well!" she'd said, and hung up before Alice could say anything else.
So as Alice stood watching Joyful with her blond dreadlocks hanging in her face as she pawed through the stack of orders and failed to find Alice's, she had wanted to say, I told you so.
Half an hour later, her order was discovered on the floor under Joyful's Birkenstocked feet.
"Alice Holtzman, Hood River. 12 Russian nucs. No extra queens. Side yard. ***VIP!!!" was scrawled in red across the page.
A couple of regular staff, Nick and Steve, helped Alice duct-tape the tops of the cardboard boxes and carefully load each one into the back of her pickup. She tightened a tie-down strap around the bases of the boxes to keep them from sliding around.
"Sorry, Alice," Nick said, rolling his eyes toward Joyful.
"New management while Tim's in Arizona. Family stuff, I guess."
Alice shrugged, tried to smile, and failed. She shut the gate of the truck harder than she needed to. It wasn't Nick's fault that she'd wasted more than an hour on what was meant to be a fifteen-minute stop, but she wasn't going to stand around making small talk.
Now on the clogged highway, Alice huffed with annoyance and flexed her hands. Being still was so hard for her these days. If she stayed focused, kept working, her thoughts couldn't blindside her. Not with 120,000 Russian honeybees in the back of the pickup.
At the exit for Multnomah Falls, which marked the halfway point to Hood River, the highway opened up, and soon she was doing eighty, heading east as the sun dropped behind her. The freedom of movement made her feel calmer. Alice took off her hat and sunglasses. She unhooked one strap of her overalls, an admission that they didn't really fit anymore, but she didn't care. She turned up the music -- Springsteen's "Born to Run."
Alice disliked Portland, with its confusing network of bridges, snarls of traffic, and aggressive panhandlers. But the open road leading away from it, she loved. Basalt cliffs overlapped each other in a view that unfolded mile after mile along the Columbia River. An osprey circled the river, keening. On the right, she saw the headlight of an oncoming train. It passed her, and she heard the whistle blow and recede.
The dell was perfect for Alice, because she hardly ever saw anyone. Other than Doug Ransom, whose large orchard sprawled pleasantly to the west of her, she had no real neighbors unless you counted Strawberry Hollow, a messy collection of trailers at the foot of Anson Road. She didn't know anyone who lived there and kept her distance. Meth heads and pit bulls, she imagined.
Then she stopped herself. Like the anxiety, this was also new -- making up ugly stories about people she didn't know.
"They are just thoughts, Alice, and the pattern promotes a negative outlook," Dr. Zimmerman had said to her. "But you can shift those patterns and rewire your thinking. It just takes practice."
Dr. Zimmerman was obviously very smart. She had diplomas from Harvard and Stanford on her wall. She had worked in Palo Alto, ostensibly fixing the tech crazies, before moving to Hood River for semi-retirement. Still, the fact that she, Alice Holtzman, was seeing a therapist was absurd. You had to laugh, she thought. Only it wasn't funny, was it?
Alice steered the truck south toward Mount Hood, toward the home she had bought with the help of her mom and dad. They were third- generation orchardists, both of them. It was hard work, but they had loved it. A life lived outside, they always said, was a good life.
"A good life," she said aloud, glancing into the rearview mirror at the twelve nucleus hives, each holding a queen and her workers and so much promise.
"Almost home, girls. You'll have a good life. I promise."
Alice had started seeing Dr. Zimmerman after she'd had what felt like a heart attack in the middle of the produce section in Little Bit Grocery and Ranch Supply three months earlier. For the first time she had felt that invisible band ratcheting down across her chest, and she couldn't catch her breath. The paramedics came, and then it seemed like half of Hood River County was standing around looking down at Alice Holtzman sitting on the floor, her chest heaving and red in the face. Her face flamed now, remembering.
She knew almost everyone at the small ER too. Jim Verk, who she'd known since second grade, was on duty that night and told her she'd had a panic attack. She went to see Dr. Zimmerman at his recommendation. Nobody in the history of the Holtzman family had ever been to a therapist, but the experience at Little Bit had embarrassed Alice so much that she was willing to try anything to avoid a repeat episode.
Alice palmed the wheel as she followed the familiar curves of Reed Road. She let her mind drift, trusting her thoughts to behave. But then she recalled her last session with Dr. Zimmerman. The therapist had been leading Alice toward the forbidden topic for some time, but they hadn't ever quite arrived. Alice kept certain thoughts behind a firmly closed door in her mind and had resisted Dr. Zimmerman's gentle prodding. Now, without warning, the door burst open.
Bud laughing as he stood behind the counter at the John Deere store. A photo of Bud in his parks department uniform on the front page of the Hood River News. Bud looking so serious that she thought he was breaking up with her, but he asked her to marry him instead. That day at the courthouse, the day he moved in, the day they brought the baby chicks home from Little Bit and sat on the floor watching them peep and hop around under the heat lamp. Buddy waltzing his laughing mother around the living room after Sunday dinner to Sinatra's "Fly Me to the Moon."
Alice didn't realize she was speeding when she hit the curve at the top of the hill. She was thinking about her husband, Buddy, who had arrived so suddenly in her quiet life, bringing such unexpected happiness. Buddy, who was now gone.
The pressure ballooned in her chest, and her throat caught. Her breath grew ragged and shallow and then exploded into hot sobs. Her vision blurred as her eyes filled. Triggered, her grief loosened like a load of big timbers from one of the logging trucks she had passed on the highway.
Alice wiped an arm across her streaming eyes as she swerved toward the edge of the road. In the twin arms of her headlights, she saw a shape in the shoulder. She slammed on the brakes, swerved, and banged to a stop against a fence post.
Alice felt 120,000 Russian honeybees crash together in the back of her truck. Time slowed. Her head rang. She looked in the rearview mirror and saw a wheelchair on its side, one wheel spinning like a runaway Ferris wheel.
Alice scrambled out of the truck and ran across the road. She could not move fast enough and felt like she was swimming through the cool air. She began to pray, her eyes searching the tall grass in the waning light. She saw a person on the ground next to the chair. Was he hurt? Alice crouched, her hands on her knees, and peered down. The figure rolled onto its back. Alice expected to see some confused old person, a little guy in his bathrobe and slippers doing a runner from Riverdale Retirement Center up the road. But she saw a boy -- a teenage boy with crazy hair and a tangle of earbuds and sunglasses on his face. She'd hit a damn kid!
The boy pushed his sunglasses off his face and looked up at her. He smiled. Relief surged through her, and she wanted to cry. Instead she yelled.
"Christ on a crutch, kid! What in the hell are you trying to do? Get yourself killed?"
This is an abridged excerpt from "The Music of Bees" by Eileen Garvin with permission from Dutton, an imprint of the Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2021 by Eileen Garvin.