Sins of the Bees blends natural majesty, mystery, and compelling characterizations to present the lives of two very different women and their tumultuous interactions with a dangerous doomsday cult.
Other than her bonsai trees, twenty-year-old arborist Silvania August Moonbeam Merigal is alone in the world. After first her mother dies and then her grandfather—the man who raised her and the last of her family—Silva suffers a sexual assault and becomes pregnant. Then, ready to end her own life, she discovers evidence of a long-lost artist grandmother, Isabelle.
Desperate to remake a family for herself, Silva leaves her island home on the Puget Sound and traces her grandmother’s path to first a hippie beekeeper named Nick Larkins with secrets of his own, and then to a religious, anti-government, Y2K cult embedded deep in the wilds of Hells Canyon. Len Dietz is the charismatic leader of the Almost Paradise compound, a place full of violence and drama: impregnated child brides called the Twelve Maidens, an armed occupation of a visitor’s center, shot-up mountain sheep washing up along with a half-drowned dog, and men transporting weapons in the middle of the night.
As tensions erupt into violence, Silva, Isabelle, Nick, and the members of Almost Paradise find themselves disastrously entangled, and Silva is forced to face both her own history of loss, and the history of loss she’s stepped into: ruinous stories of family that threaten to destroy them all.
Annie Lampman has a Master of Fine Arts in fiction and is a professor of honors creative writing at the Washington State University Honors College. She has been awarded a 2020 Literature Fellowship Special Mention by the Idaho Commission on the Arts, a Best American Essays “Notable,” a Pushcart Prize Special Mention, the Dogwood Literary Award in Fiction, the Everybody Writes Award in Poetry, and a Bureau of Land Management national wilderness artist’s residency in the Owyhee Canyonlands Wilderness. She lives in Moscow, Idaho, and for decades has backpacked into the depths of Hells Canyon.
“Sins of the Bees is a fascinating glimpse into the world of a paranoid doomsday cult, with echoes of The Handmaid's Tale—though this isn't science fiction. This heartfelt contemporary literary thriller brings together multiple timelines into a compelling whole, with elements of romance, suspense, and mystery intertwining. Annie Lampman is clearly a writer to watch.”
– Dan Chaon, National Book Award finalist
“Lush and sweeping in its language and its landscape, Sins of the Bees takes us to the heart of human need—for love, for family, for a reason to stay alive. Moving between the verdant Pacific Coast and the arid breaks of Hells Canyon, from the artist's reflective sensibility to the survivalist's absolute desire to own and control the people around him, Lampman weaves a story of destiny and desperation that pitches one woman's quest for paradise against the violent will of a man bent on domination and destruction.”
– Kim Barnes, Pulitzer Prize Finalist
“With stunning, poetic language, Lampman weaves a remarkable novel full of wisdom and hope. It’s a contemporary cautionary tale that speaks to the dangers and devastation wrought by powerful, charismatic men—and to the women who resurrect themselves by rejecting and repudiating them. And at the story’s core is a deep search for family connection. A marvelous, metaphorical and profound debut.”
– Buddy Levy, bestselling author of 'Labyrinth of Ice'