Book Review: The Wedding Bees by Sarah-Kate Lynch

A celebration of Sarah-Kate Lynch's quartet of books about food, love, and travel

A celebration of Sarah-Kate Lynch’s quartet of books about food, love, and travel

The bees of the world are having a hard time at the moment,
but the good news is we can do something about it.
Sarah-Kate Lynch

In The Wedding Bees: A Novel of Honey, Love & Manners, Sarah-Kate Lynch blends six things that matter to her:  “love, friendship, manners, New York City, the South and honey.”  It is a perfect beach book.

The “Buzz-off Bride,” Cherie-Lynn “Sugar” Antoinette Wallace, loves her bees and the honey they produce.  Her queen bee, Elizabeth VI, has chosen Alphabet City in New York as their 15th home since Sugar abandoned Grady Johnson Howell Parkes at the altar of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church which had hosted “Wallace family weddings since 1764” in Charleston, South Carolina:

At the end of every winter. . .Sugar would coax a sleepy Elizabeth out of the hive where she’d been huddled for the winter.  She’d place her carefully on an old map of her granddaddy’s, let her crawl all over it, and wherever she finally stopped was their next destination.


I’ve got my bees, Jay. . .
That’s more than most people have.
– Sarah-Kate Lynch, The Wedding Bees

Sugar met George Wainwright, a retired doorman, and Theodore Lewis Fitzgerald, an attorney, shortly after arriving at her 600-square-foot studio at 33 Flores Street in New York City.  Her bees’ new home would be a terrace which ran the length of her apartment, 5B:

. . .exquisite window boxes. . .perfect spot for her bees. . .gardenias acting as scented sentry guards. . .

Sugar lugged the gardenias with her wherever she went to help guide the bees back to their new home. . .electric blue mosaic birdbath. . .always knew where their drinking water was.

SKL HoneyComb

 Sugar did treat her bees like next of kin.
– Sarah-Kate Lynch, The Wedding Bees

Her new neighbors are anorexic Ruby Portman, “Loony” Lola and her toddler son Ethan, frumpy Hannah Keschl, cranky old Jimmy McNally, and the shy pastry chef Nate.  George became their volunteer doorman:

George worried that Sugar’s caring was something of a one-way street.  She put her heart and soul into helping fix up everyone else but didn’t let anyone do the same for her.

Sarah-Kate Lynch photographing bee hives on a rooftop in New York City.

Sarah-Kate Lynch photographing bee hives on a rooftop in New York City.

You’re not a drone, Sugar.
You’re a queen.
– Sarah-Kate Lynch, The Wedding Bees

Theo was from Barlanark, Glasgow, Scotland.  After arriving in New York City, his career took off, and he had a “catastrophic marriage” to Carolyn.  After descending into misery, he ditched his high-flying career to work for a non-profit which helped homeless and low-income New Yorkers.  Although he instantly fell madly in love with Sugar, she was highly skittish:

Sugar saw something in Grady that didn’t fit her dream of the adoring husband-to-be, the charming son-in-law, the charismatic lawyer.  She saw a sweaty drunk who popped her cherry.

. . .man doesn’t like bees. . .

She just didn’t love him enough to be bullied into putting aside everything she liked about herself in order to make him happy. . .

I was engaged once but I ran away from my own wedding. . .I humiliated my fiancé.  I disgraced my family.  I abandoned my friends. . .I have not been home ever since.

Bee swarm

Bee swarm

People deal with worse problems every day.
– Sarah-Kate Lynch, The Wedding Bees

Sugar might have been terrified to enter into a relationship with Theo, but her bees liked him.  Elizabeth VI decamped the hive and took her bees to Theo’s rooftop terrace.  Twice:

Has it ever occurred to you that your bees are trying to tell you something?

. . .your bees keep going to Theo’s house and not stinging him. . .It’s not how he feels about the bees; it’s how the bees feel about him.

Creative Little Garden at 530 E. Sixth, NYC

Creative Little Garden at 530 E. Sixth, NYC

It’s time, Miss Sugar, to put the past behind you.
– Sarah-Kate Lynch, The Wedding Bees
During a trip back home with Theo to Charleston, South Carolina, Sugar had an epiphany:

Relationships could crack, never to be filled, leaving impossible chasms gaping forever after, that was the fact of it, and that was harsh.

But new pathways could also be navigated, forging their way through uncharted territory, winding their way around those inhospitable obstacles like ribbons of tide through the low country salt marshes.

Green Oasis Garden, East Village, NYC

Green Oasis Garden, East Village, NYC

Theo had created a bee’s perfect haven.
– Sarah-Kate Lynch, The Wedding Bees

Y’all know there’s a wedding, but Theo and Sugar aren’t the only ones who fall in love.

Once again, Ms. Lynch has written a delightfully wonderful book after doing thorough research.  The photos in this post are places she visited in 2009 in New York City with her husband, Mark Robins, who was the art director for the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  It was filmed in New Zealand where they live.

Sarah-Kate Lynch at the 2014 Oscars.  She had several whimsical photos taken of her after the Oscars which have illustrated my reviews of her amazing books.

Sarah-Kate Lynch at the 2014 Oscars. She had several whimsical photos taken of her wearing this dress after the Oscars.  They have illustrated my reviews of her amazing books.

I love nothing more than hitting the road.
– Sarah-Kate Lynch

Ms. Lynch generously shared her life’s philosophy:

When I turned fifty I decided I would say yes to every sparkling opportunity that came my way.

. . .deciding to say yes has been the single most liberating decision of my life.

. . .As long as it suits me, I’m in. . .There just comes a point in a girl’s life when she realizes that happiness is not something that is delivered on a silver plate borne aloft by half a dozen well-oiled bronze musclemen all wearing loincloths of a certain shade of mauve.

Related links and posts:

NYC’s Alphabet City Neighborhood Botanical Garden by Robin Plaskoff Horton, 12/7/11 [photos of three gardens]

Book Review:  Blessed Are the Cheesemakers by Sarah-Kate Lynch, 6/18/14

Book Review:  By Bread Alone by Sarah-Kate Lynch, 6/20/14

Book Review:  The House of Peine by Sarah-Kate Lynch, 6/22/14


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