Perched amid the leaves of the Osage orange tree in her stepfather’s backyard, Beryl Fonteyn observes the life around her—Mama’s desperate attempts to gain Jack’s approval by writing her novel, which he mercilessly critiques; her brother Stevie’s unhealthy fascination with acting out events from the Bible; and Jack’s obsession with his bees—all the while imagining that her runaway father will one day return. But as Beryl’s adolescent turmoil collides with the confines of Jack’s eccentric home, a shattering secret will divide their loyalties—and in one irrevocable moment the home that Beryl’s family has found, their shelter in the storm, will be torn apart forever. . . .
In this moving, often heartbreaking story, Beryl Fonteyn chronicles her years growing up in Virginia and North Carolina. She is five years old when her adored saxophone-playing father leaves the family in Virginia for a jazz career in Chicago. A few years later, her mother marries Dr. Jack Fonteyn, who introduces his wife, stepdaughter and Beryl's younger brother Stevie to tennis, Greek classics and his passion: beekeeping. On the surface the new arrangement is idyllic, yet the hoped-for love and warmth of family life never materialize as Davis-Gardener's ( Felice ) carefully drawn characters instead connect in a painful, psychologically damaging dynamic spun of loyalty and desperation. Beryl's convincing voice, particularly as a child, lends authenticity to her honest and hard-hitting tale. Readers will identify with her loss and alienation and cheer her eventual courage as she confronts the harsh facts of her childhood.