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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.
LitHub/CrimeReads best new debut selection
Popsugar Book Club best new thrillers selection
Winner of the 2020 American Fiction Award for Thriller: Crime from American Book Fest
“A wild ride that includes a bounty of secrets, a doomsday cult, and enough twists to satisfy even the most seasoned mystery reader.”, PopSugar ("Best New Thriller and Mystery Books in September")
"Lampman’s prose has a haunting, poetic quality and a deep engagement with the natural world.", CrimeReads ("5 Debut Novels You Should Read in September")
"An affecting, lyrical debut. The novel blossoms when it explores how the rhythms of nature add grace to human solitude. A profound, stark tale of loss and longing across generations. Lampman is a writer to watch.", Publishers Weekly
“Gorgeous and thought-provoking descriptions of bee and tree life, as well as the Pacific Northwest generally. Suggest some nature-focused nonfiction, such as Peter Wohlleben’s Can You Hear the Trees Talking, to go with Lampman’s debut novel.”, Booklist
“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'
“Sins of the Bees echoes the work of writers like Annie Proulx and Rick Bass in its portrayal of memory-haunted folks inextricably bound to the harsh and beautiful land.” -- Daniel Orozco, Whiting Award recipient, former Stegner Fellow, and author of Orientation and Other Stories
“More than a human melodrama, Lampman uses everything she knows from backpacking into the land around Idaho’s Snake River and Hell’s Canyon to add realism to her tale of love and loss. In fact, this is both a naturalist’s guide to the sunbaked sections of the Pacific northwest—the plants and animals that live there (including bees and bonsai trees)—and a literary thriller of a romance that keeps the reader hanging on to the epilogue. Brava, Ms. Lampman!” -- Mitch Silver, author of The Apollo Deception
“Compelling and deeply affecting, Sins of the Bees is a literary thriller about two women’s search for identity and their struggle to feel grounded and loved; to belong. I felt submerged in the lyrical writing, swept away by the undertows of desire, desperation, loss, and redemption. Annie Lampman’s debut is a stunner.” -- Lesley Kagen, New York Times bestselling author of Every Now and Then