“He Should Have Told The Bees” by Amanda Cox

Amanda Cox’s third novel, He Should Have Told The Bees, is an endearing story about a collision of lives, the process of opening up to people around us who care, the power of faith, and the wonder of unexpected surprises.

We are introduced to two young women in a dual storyline, both of whom are struggling. Callie is trying to open her own business despite her tight budget as well as her mother’s unwelcome interventions, and Beckett (Beck) is trying to maintain her father‘s legacy of operating a farm and apiary, despite her limited abilities.

Callie has a distant, addicted mother with whom she has had a lifelong frustrating and unsatisfying relationship, and no father. Beck has a recently deceased father to whom she was overly attached, barely remembers a mother who up and left when she was a small child, and suffers from agoraphobia. The two women live in separate towns, have very different separate lives, and seemingly have nothing in common, until a letter arrives in each of their mailboxes.

Callie has formed her own business making body products that she sells online and at farmer’s markets, and is trying to open a store front. Having purchased a building, and almost finished with some renovations, Callie has her grand opening clearly in sight when the building inspector squashes her hopes with the news that more, and expensive, renovations need to be made. Minutes later, her mother knocks on the door. This visit isn’t good news. Callie’s mother, Lindy, is a rubber cement character; sticking to one thing, then another, but never forming a permanent bond, and forever leaving everything she touched with the residue of goo. Even when Callie was a little girl, she knew that something wasn’t right with her mother:

Momma’s smiles were as dependable as the flimsy dress-up costumes from the bargain store that ripped halfway through trick-or-treating…. Sometimes she wondered if Momma was like the neighbor’s cat that had gotten hit by a car. It lived, but it was never right again, given to darting wildly about the yard but not escaping. Running and running until it fell over. 

Beck’s issues are different. Her father, George Walsh, recently died unexpectedly. He was her loving, doting dad, who gave up his job at the bank to homestead their farm and raise bees in order to make sure that his daughter was safe and protected. Now Beck is the beekeeper, which is about the only thing she knows and thinks she is capable of doing. We suspect that even before George died, Beck didn’t look much to the right or left, and certainly her focus has narrowed when the future of the farm rests solely in her hands. But she gets a delightful break when a child skips into her view:

My name is Katya Amadeus Cimmaron. I hail from the planet Zirthwyth of the Vesper Galaxy. Beck did not have time for this nonsense, and yet this imp of a girl had a gravitational pull that tugged Beck into her fictional orbit.

 Unbeknownst to Beck at the time, Katya not only trespassed into Beck’s field, but also, in her consistently mismatched knee-socks, straight into Beck’s heart. Beck explains to Katya that she is covering the bee boxes with black cloths:

“It’s an old superstition that if the beekeeper dies, you must tell the bees of his passing or the bees will die too. The cloths are supposed to help them properly mourn.”

 Katya tells Beck,“I don’t think it’s just superstition. If your whole world is getting turned upside down, then someone should tell you to your face. The bees have a right to know.” 

Beck picked up another cloth from the pile. “Their world isn’t getting turned upside down. Nothing changes for the bees. The world just keeps spinning, and they keep on doing their thing.”

Katya responds, “Humans never count what the little things in the world notice.” 

Katya, whose earthling name is Fern, begins the process of melting the icy coating that has surrounded Beck’s heart ever since her father died. Beck takes the girl under her wing and teaches her about bees. Bees, however, do not pay the bills.

Beck’s lack of business acumen becomes evident when an appraiser comes to the farm and asks Beck, “Is income generated from the land?” She replies, “I…I…not much. Enough to keep this place running and pay the bills.” When he asks her if any of the property is in the floodway, she responds “I really don’t know. I —.”

This encounter leads Beck to remember that a letter from The River City Trust Company has been sitting, unopened, on her kitchen table for a while after someone brought in her mail from the overflowing mailbox. Obviously, Beck hadn’t even ventured to the end of the driveway to get the mail, probably since her father died.

When a neighbor drives Beck to the trustee meeting, she meets Callie for the first time, and finds out that her father didn’t leave her a farm that seems to be a little rundown, some farm equipment, farm animals, and a vehicle that doesn’t work, even though she would never drive off the property. As it turns out, he left Beck the farm equipment, the farm animals, and half of the farm. The other half he bequeathed to Callie, who is totally unknown to Beck. Why would he do such a thing?

Mid-meeting, Beck has a full-blown panic attack and has to be taken to the ER. There, she muses about why her father would have given half of her farm to a stranger even though she knew he’d given up his job at the bank to work on the farm because her panic attacks were out of control.

We understand that George knew Beck wasn’t going to be able to sustain the farm on her own. In the aftermath of another such attack it dawned on her that “He’d thought she couldn’t handle the place on her own. Considering how a simple meeting had landed her in the ER, she couldn’t argue.” But argue she does.

At some point we become a bit frustrated with Beck, who is being self-absorbed and stubborn. Callie has been left half of her farm and Beck doesn’t understand why, but the bigger question is why doesn’t Beck understand that she’s totally incapable of taking care of it by herself? Callie, on the other hand, has her own business, is planning on opening a store, therefore has a sense of business. Beck can’t even drive herself to town and isn’t prone to even opening her mail and paying her bills.

 Beck continues to be hard-headed about Callie’s interest in the farm, but Callie proceeds with all due care and caution. Even though the money she would get if she sold her portion would make her life immensely better, she cares for Beck and wants what is best for her.

The two women face some adversities, run smack into a surprise that neither of them could have imagined, and finally forge a bond. Although the route is circuitous, in the end, with the help of friends and neighbors, everyone finds their true path and the ability to embrace it.

Amanda Cox

Amanda Cox is the author of the 2021 Christy Book of the Year, The Edge of Belonging and The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery, recipient of a Booklist starred review. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Bible and theology and a master’s degree in professional counseling. Her studies and her interactions with hurting families over a decade have allowed her to create multidimensional characters that connect emotionally with readers. She resides in Tennessee with her husband and three children.


  1. Barbara Kelly says

    Mary Ellen, Why am I not amazed that you were able to gather all of the glass pieces of this wild adventure into a literary kaleidoscope that we can view the fascinating world of this book through.

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