Bees on the Snow
Pastor Kristijonas passes away at the beginning of this story-like fairy tale. Many in his Lithuanian flock adored him and are sad to see such a good man pass away. The Bishop and other local notables have heard rumors about the pastor’s questionable behavior, and they aren’t as sad to see him go. All is not what it seems, and as the tale reveals, Pastor Kristijonas has played a large and memorable role in the lives of some of the residents in the town, like his wife Marija, Karvellis the bell ringer, and Limba the school teacher. And perhaps most importantly, Lote and her son Jonelis, whom Kristijonas has claimed as his own.
Bees on the Snow is an interesting and beautifully descriptive story of a place that remains unnamed and in a time that remains unclear. As the introduction explains, the author draws on Lithuanian history and allegories to create this sense of timelessness. As I read along, I couldn’t help but think of that old biblical line about the first will be the last and the last will be the first. All the poor, unworthy souls in this story turn out to be the ones redeemed in the end, unlike the wealthy ones from afar who have only come to seek a fortune or grab what they can. Perhaps this is because only the unfortunate ones followed Pastor Kristijonas so fervently, carrying on his memory and deeds until the end.
I liked the fact that this story went back and forth in time. Often the author revealed the undercurrents and rumors floating around the town before presenting the reader with the truth of what happened to the characters. Which meant one had to rethink how one felt about them throughout. I think this made the story more engaging for me. Overall, I think this is a literature piece that one needs to ponder for a while after reading to really appreciate what the author wanted to say. I like that it reminded me of something from the past, like forgotten images from paintings or fairy tales. Frankly, there was something both new and yet familiar about it, maybe even nostalgic if I can go that far. I did, however, have mixed feelings about the structure and lack of standard chapter divisions. Perhaps that resulted from the fact that the author composed the story over a long period. But it seemed long and rambling when it wasn’t. I think chapter divisions would have made it better for readers to know where to pause and then quickly pick up the story again. Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading this one.
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