Responding again to my cravings for unusual stories in settings relating to the theme of my holiday, I packed Gail Anderson-Dargatz's A Recipe for Bees (Knopf). The novel isn't as good or tight or original as The Cure for Death by Lightning.
I was put off by the synopsis of the flashback-style plot on the book jacket ("woman ponders her life while loved one goes through surgery"), which seemed worn out, and by the book's opening sentence, which seemed designed to shock the reader into reading on. It worked: I laughed out loud and got hooked. But I resented the ploy, even as I let myself be charmed as Anderson-Dargatz told me the story of Augusta Olsen, with wit and a steady heart.
It's a difficult story about the price of our choices and the reasons we make them, but Anderson-Dargatz tells it honestly and without stoicism. I ended up reading the book in one sitting, hardly noticing that I was getting burned by the Long Beach sun.