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‘Support in unlikely places’: Spokane born and raised author Eileen Garvin discusses the novel bringing her national acclaim

UPDATED: Wed., May 5, 2021

Eileen Garvin was born and raised in Spokane.  (Courtesy of Kate Schwager)
Eileen Garvin was born and raised in Spokane. (Courtesy of Kate Schwager)

For Eileen Garvin, “The Music of Bees” was the ultimate distraction from COVID-19 during the first weeks of staying home for the pandemic. A year later, the book had her beamed across televisions in America as a “Good Morning America” buzz pick.

Garvin sold her debut novel’s manuscript in February 2020 and revisions started the next month.

“The forced confinement of COVID really allowed me to sink into the revision,” Garvin said during a virtual gathering of the Northwest Passages Book Club Tuesday evening.

The novel follows three strangers brought together in a fictionalized version of Garvin’s town of Hood River, Oregon. The three, including a punky teen confined to a wheelchair, are all working through grief when they find each other through a honeybee farm.

Garvin was born and raised in Spokane. Her fondest memories include walking to school under giant chestnut trees and the warm wind in spring when snow is starting to melt, she said at the event.

Garvin’s sister faced an uphill battle with autism. Garvin said that in her family, the disability meant they were often asking themselves, “What’s next?” and how they could improve Garvin’s sister’s quality of life.

One character in “The Music of Bees,” teenage Jake, asks himself similar questions. The musician aided by a wheelchair has dreams of going to school for music. He also has perfect pitch and can hear the queen bee in each hive singing their specific pitch, which is G sharp or A flat, Garvin said.

Garvin – a beekeeper herself studying through Oregon State University’s master beekeeper extension program – said she was learning lessons about beekeeping at the same time that her characters did in her writing.

The queens’ pitch came from her studies. In reality, when an old queen fails, new ones hatch and begin singing a pitch. They then fight to the death.

Garvin has already started another novel and will stick to the theme of people trying to solve problems that don’t have easy answers.

The three main characters in Garvin’s novel don’t expect to find support, she said.

“What they demonstrate is that you don’t often know who’s going to be there for you. You never know who you’re going to discover in a process of hardship like that,” Garvin said . “This idea of finding support in unlikely places and new friendships is probably something that’s more understandable to people everywhere this year than any other time because it’s just been a strange experience.”

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