Sins of the Bees blends the majesty and mystery of Where the Crawdads Sing with the character explorations of The Girls 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, 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 Isabelle paints portraits of Len Dietz and the Twelve Maidens ceremonially progressing toward their group marriage on the prophesized end of the world—January 1, 2000, the new millennium—Silva moves ever closer to finding her grandmother in Hells Canyon and finds herself drawn Nick, whose life is also irrevocably tied to Len Dietz.
As tensions erupt into violence, Silva, Isabelle, Nick, and the members of Almost Paradise find themselves disastrously entangled. And like the ancient bonsai struggling to navigate territories both new and old, 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.