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Beholding Bee

Kimberly Newton Fusco hits all the right notes with this delightful new coming-of-age story set in a somewhat magical World War II.

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BEHOLDING BEE, by Kimberly Newton Fusco

Knopf, 336 pp.

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I almost gave up on Beholding Bee.

Yes, I'd heard the early buzz. Readers whose taste mimicked mine loved it.  I was attracted to the appealing cover art, the heft of the book, the fresh voice of the narrator. And it began with a surprising concept. After the death of her parents when she was quite young, 12-year-old Bee is in the care of her friend Pauline. Together, they work at a traveling carnival. Although Bee's birthmark causes her to constantly cover her face and look away, Pauline offers encouragement, telling her it is a diamond. Such a unique setting! So many oddball, intriguing characters, and Bee certainly seemed like a girl to root for.

Then I bogged down waiting for something to happen. I was mad at Pauline, Bee's friend and caretaker. Could she really abandon our heroine for a creepy love interest? I almost put the novel aside.  Am I ever glad I didn't.

Part magic, part coming-of-age in a too-real world, the story twists and turns into uncharted territory. While it reminded me a bit of Ann M. Martin's "A Corner of the Universe," the elderly aunts, who may or may not be figments of Bee's imagination, took the story in a delightful new direction.

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