For over 20 years, Whidbey Reads has been bringing Whidbey Island residents together to enjoy and discuss literature. The program is a collaborative effort between Sno-Isle Libraries, local partners, and community volunteers. Each year, the Whidbey Reads committee selects one book to inspire lively discussions and community engagement. This year’s title is The Music of Bees, a debut novel by Pacific Northwest author Eileen Garvin.
Born and raised in eastern Washington, Eileen now lives in Hood River, Oregon. Driving through town one spring day, she was enjoying views of orchards in bloom when she passed a young man in a wheelchair sporting a huge mohawk and a sentence popped into her head. As any writer knows, you have to capture those moments of inspiration before they’re gone, so she pulled over and wrote it down. “Jacob Stevenson had the tallest mohawk in the history of Hood River Valley High School.” This became the first line of her novel. From there, the story took on a life of its own and The Music of Bees was born.
The story centers on three strangers, each looking for a fresh start, who are brought together on a honeybee farm in Hood River, Oregon. Jake is a paraplegic teenager; Alice is a widowed beekeeper; and Harry, an anxious misfit. As these three disparate characters work together on Alice’s bee farm, an unexpected friendship blossoms between them. Published in 2021, the book became a national bestseller. Garvin has also written a memoir, How to Be a Sister, about growing up with her older sister Margaret who was diagnosed with severe autism at age three.
Q & A with Eileen Garvin
In advance of her visit, we were fortunate to be able to sit down with the author and get to know her.
Sno-Isle Libraries: What is your advice to aspiring authors?
Garvin: Read widely and write regularly!
Sno-Isle Libraries: Your story is very rooted in the natural world. When do you feel most connected with nature?
Garvin: I spend a lot of time outside! I feel lucky to live in the Pacific Northwest. I love the woods and I feel very at home on the trails in Washington and Oregon.
Sno-Isle Libraries: What is one of the first books you loved?
Garvin: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
Sno-Isle Libraries: What’s a recent favorite read?
Garvin: These Precious Days by Ann Patchett.
Sno-Isle Libraries: How about a book you can recommend to people who enjoyed The Music of Bees?
Garvin: The History of Bees by Maja Lunde.