The Death of Bees {Review & Giveaway}

by Elizabeth

Today is Christmas Eve. Today is my birthday. Today I am fifteen. Today I buried my parents in the backyard.

Neither of them were beloved.

The opening lines of The Death of Bees sent chills up my spine. Marnie and Nelly are two young teens. They live in poverty in the slums of Glasgow with parents who are abusive, neglectful, and often absent, but at least they are physically present often enough to pick up the rent check and spend it on alcohol and cigarettes. With their deaths, Marnie and Nelly are on their own. Desperate not to be separated in foster care, they bury their parents in the back yard and try to go on as normal, keeping their terrible secret. Marnie is 15 and smart, straight A’s without even studying, sleeping around and smoking and caring for her younger sister as best she can. Nelly is 12, nearly 13. She’s a talented violinist and speaks very formally, using old-fashioned words, yet she’s often vague and it’s clear she’s been damaged. In some ways, she seems much younger than Marnie.

Their next door neighbour, an elderly man now single after the death of his lover and unfortunately branded a sexual pervert after an encounter with a young man he thought was of legal age, notices the parents have disappeared and assumes they’ve abandoned their kids again. Gradually, he finds himself taking care of the two girls, feeding them and doing their laundry, trying to fatten up Marnie, whom he worries is anorexic, becoming the caring father they never had. In the meantime, his dog has a strong attraction for his neighbour’s yard, although the girls do their best to keep him out.

Chapters are short and are told in alternating voices–Marnie, Nelly, and Lennie. Each voice is very distinctive, and each manages to go somehow very deep into the human experience while at the same time moving along quickly. The Death of Bees is an unusual book. Dealing with people who are living in the depths, somehow it offers hope for redemption, and although much of the subject matter is depressing, the book itself is full of humorous touches. They meet unusual people along the way–the drug dealer who’s a former teacher and tutors Marnie in math and science, the grandfather who abandoned their mother when she needed him most but who now considers himself the most upright pillar in the whole society, who uses Christianity not as a faith but instead as a club to defend his own self-righteousness.

The Death of Bees is a story about family and friends, those you can trust and those who betray, those who use and abuse and those who care and love. Ultimately you will care deeply about the fate of Marnie, Nelly and Lennie. Each is well-drawn, accurate in their own story, and sympathetic. Author Lisa O’Donnell has a deft touch and an ear for voices, and a talent for avoiding cliche and sentimentality. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I highly recommend it.

And, therefore, I’m thrilled to announce one of you can win your own copy! Just enter your info in the rafflecopter below. And be sure to leave a comment to tell me of a great book you read in 2012 (because I need more book recommendations like I need a hole in the head!). I’m always on the look-out for great reads.

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Email Author    |    Website About Elizabeth

Elizabeth is a voracious reader with eclectic tastes who loves being part of the team at 5 Minutes for Books. She's lived in 7 countries and is currently in Oregon, where she spends most of her time with Iraqi refugees. She has 3 teens.

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{ 95 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sharon Schoepe December 30, 2012 at 7:06 pm

I just finished reading The Alchemist. An older book but still amazing.

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2 Beth - TheAngelForever
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December 30, 2012 at 7:52 pm

Loved reading The Middlesteins and End of Your Life Book Club. So many really great books read this year.
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3 Janice December 30, 2012 at 8:34 pm

I am not sure, but I think I saw a documentary about this on Discovery Channel. Something about two teenagers that were abused by their parents and end up killing them. Seems to be related somehow. Do you think this book is based on a real story?
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4 edj December 31, 2012 at 3:34 pm

No, because–SPOILER ALERT!!– the girls don’t kill their parents, they simply bury them. I don’t think it’s based on a real story, but I do think the characters are realistic.

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5 Kristin December 30, 2012 at 10:22 pm

Bossypants! Loved it!!
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6 kali December 30, 2012 at 10:35 pm

I enjoyed 50 shades or grey! LOL

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7 Susan P. December 30, 2012 at 10:58 pm

I read Fall of Giants and Winter of the World by Ken Follett. Both are long books but the author is such a great story teller that I didn’t mind and didn’t want them to be over.

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8 K.Pugh December 30, 2012 at 11:27 pm

The Ballad of The Whiskey Robber.
Thanks for the chance.

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9 drina m. December 31, 2012 at 12:45 am

I have read too many goods books this past year to just pick one. I love and will always love reading.

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10 DEBIJOT December 31, 2012 at 8:04 am

Just reread Nicholas and Alexandria – about the fall of the Russian Royals.

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11 DarcyO December 31, 2012 at 9:00 am

I loved John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars.

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12 amyc December 31, 2012 at 9:11 am

Have read over 100 books this year. The last great book I read was Wedded to War by Jocelyn Green.

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13 Sandra K321 December 31, 2012 at 9:57 am

I am trying to catch up on some older books that I missed, so it’s not a new book but one of my favorites that I read this year was The Help.

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14 diane sabatini December 31, 2012 at 10:27 am

Twilight book; first in series.

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15 Annette December 31, 2012 at 10:48 am

I know this is going to sound corny, but I read all of 50 shades of gray.

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16 Chuck December 31, 2012 at 10:54 am

Been busy reading auto repair books lately, major car problems.

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17 Marti Parks December 31, 2012 at 11:05 am

I read The Professor, it’s by a local artist, but was very good.

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18 Anne December 31, 2012 at 12:35 pm

I read The Shoemaker’s Wife which was memorable.

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19 Wehaf December 31, 2012 at 1:20 pm

I liked Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

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20 Carol M December 31, 2012 at 2:31 pm

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin was very good!

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21 Carol Wong December 31, 2012 at 3:26 pm

I loved “Brain on Fire” by Susan Cahalan. It was hard to put down. I am telling all my friends to read it. It is a true story of Susan who was attacked by a mysterious disease and the persistence and hope of her family, friends and doctor that helped her through.

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22 Kerrie Mayans December 31, 2012 at 5:42 pm

The Night Circus.

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23 Cindy B January 1, 2013 at 1:52 am

A Walk Across the Sun by Corban Addison! The Death of Bees is high on my wish list!

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24 Louis January 1, 2013 at 5:03 am

“Starters” by Lissa Price
Thank you for hosting this giveaway

Louis
pumuckler {at} gmail {dot} com

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25 angie January 1, 2013 at 7:13 am

did not do a lot of reading in 2012 but what I did read I enjoyed and hope to put reading back into my daily life more in 2013
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26 Sheila K. January 1, 2013 at 12:29 pm

The Secret Keeper, by Kate Morton, was my favorite book of 2012—truly an amazing read!

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27 Lori D. January 1, 2013 at 2:28 pm

I read an old Steven King book awhile back.

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28 Julie January 1, 2013 at 2:41 pm

I have to give you two: Wonder by R. J. Palaccio and The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom!
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29 Ashley January 1, 2013 at 9:20 pm

7:an experimental mutiny against excess

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30 Daniel M January 1, 2013 at 10:35 pm

the hunger games

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31 Shelly Leatham January 2, 2013 at 12:43 am

Re read BreakingDawn!
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32 Van January 2, 2013 at 9:44 am

Have to be honest, have not really read any thing lately.

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33 Jeanna January 2, 2013 at 11:06 am

I liked the 50 shades of Grey trilogy.

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34 Katie January 2, 2013 at 12:44 pm

Blackout, by Connie Willis! It was a great book about WWII

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35 Liz January 2, 2013 at 1:59 pm

I have been so wrapped up in school work this year, that I can’t remember something I read for fun!

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36 Debbie Lewis January 2, 2013 at 7:10 pm

I read all the books by JD Robb

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37 nannypanpan January 2, 2013 at 9:54 pm

girl with a dragon tatoo
nannypanpan@gmail.com

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38 Jessica T January 2, 2013 at 11:50 pm

A few books by Kristin Hannah – first time I had read her and LOVED her!

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39 Thousif Raza January 3, 2013 at 12:34 am

One the books most memorable books i read in 2012 was Everyday by David Mitchell… Awesome book…

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40 Melanie N. January 3, 2013 at 4:25 am

I read and enjoyed John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars.

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41 Angela E. January 3, 2013 at 9:52 am

I finished up a book that I won from 5 minutes for books.

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42 Mary January 3, 2013 at 11:11 am

I just finished reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.
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43 Jenny Sims January 3, 2013 at 10:01 pm

Everything I read by Gillian Flynn was great – Gone Girl, Dark Places, and Sharp Objects.

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44 debbie January 4, 2013 at 8:36 am

I like Ashfall.

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45 Jenn January 4, 2013 at 10:21 pm

The Devil in the White City

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46 Melanie Montgomery January 4, 2013 at 10:24 pm

The City of Bones, and The Help were both great!

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47 Deborah January 5, 2013 at 11:02 am

I read many great novels on my kindle last year, but the last book I read in 2012 was a paperback titled The Dalai Lama’s Cat.

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48 Nikita January 5, 2013 at 11:49 am

Watch your Mouth is really good.

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49 Don January 5, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Read a political book not too long ago.

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50 Marianne S. January 5, 2013 at 7:17 pm

I’ve been reading “The Ghost in Me” By Shaunda Kennedy Wenger… it’s amazing! This book sounds just as good… I’m looking forward to reading it!

Marianne Sandling
Sandling All Day
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51 Jessica Harlow January 5, 2013 at 11:48 pm

I read (and loved) The Help! :)
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52 Margot S. January 6, 2013 at 2:31 am

The Brief History of the Dead

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53 De_ja January 6, 2013 at 7:20 am

Her fearful symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger.
Wasn’t as good as Time travelers wife, the ending is confusing,
but characters are well-shaped. I’ve read about 20 books, but this was the first I remembered so it must have been good :)

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54 Melissa January 6, 2013 at 8:59 am

Sounds like a great book
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55 Denise S January 6, 2013 at 10:26 am

The Hunger Games.

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56 Lesley F January 6, 2013 at 12:27 pm

I liked home front

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57 Francine Anchondo January 6, 2013 at 12:27 pm

The Night Circus.

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58 cassandra mccann January 6, 2013 at 1:28 pm

The fourth of july by kevin dowd is amazing

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59 Grace Irelan January 6, 2013 at 7:03 pm

Thank goodddness for great authors.

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60 Jenny January 6, 2013 at 9:13 pm

Hunger Games is one of my favorites.

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61 Kathy S January 6, 2013 at 11:24 pm

I enjoyed Snow Child in 2012.

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62 Tammy H January 7, 2013 at 9:23 am

The Magic Warble by Victoria Simcox

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63 June January 7, 2013 at 11:25 am

Would love to read!

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64 Anita Yancey January 7, 2013 at 12:22 pm

One of the better ones I read was the last one I read in 2012, and that is Miss Hildreth Wore Brown by Olivia deBelle Bryd. It was just so funny. Thanks for having this giveaway.

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65 lisa l. January 7, 2013 at 12:46 pm

les miserables after seeing the movie.

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66 Susan Chester January 7, 2013 at 8:16 pm

I loved The Secret Keeper : A Novel by Kate Morton.
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67 Carolyn A Colley (Griffith, Smith) January 8, 2013 at 12:01 am

I read the Magic Warble by Victoria Simcox, very good book

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68 Gina January 8, 2013 at 12:47 pm

One of the GREAT books I read in 2012 would have to be THE GIRL WHO FELL BENEATH FAIRYLAND AND LED THE REVELS THERE by Cathrynne Valiente. Awesome series if you ever get a chance to explore its wild and wordy ways. ^_^
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69 Kristina January 8, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Fantastic review! I really look forward to reading this book.

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70 Kristina January 8, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Also, great book I read this year that I highly recommend: “Wicked Bugs” by Amy Stewart. It totally changed the way I think about bed bugs. (Still gross, but more malevolent.)

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71 callie stuck January 8, 2013 at 12:48 pm

I enjoyed Ready Player One and Seraphina
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72 Jeff Sutton January 8, 2013 at 12:49 pm

I read The Great Divorce by CS Lewis. It is almost a yearly read for me.

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73 Kristina January 8, 2013 at 12:55 pm

I love that book. I think it is Lewis’ finest.

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74 Cayla January 8, 2013 at 12:50 pm

I adored the Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater and Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor!

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75 Jeremy January 8, 2013 at 1:04 pm

The Fault In our Stars by John Green! Fantastic work!

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76 Rincey January 8, 2013 at 1:09 pm

My favorite book of 2012 was definitely The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock
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77 Alisson H. January 8, 2013 at 11:48 pm

I really liked Safe Haven.

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78 Heather! January 9, 2013 at 9:59 am

I have heard about this book, and it sounds like an intriguing story. I read *The Crazy School* a few months ago, and it was pretty good!

Thanks!
h4schaffer at gmail dot com

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79 Garrett January 9, 2013 at 10:04 am

I just got done reading a Steven King novel.

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80 Jason January 9, 2013 at 3:24 pm

11.22.63 by Stephen King was a great book

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81 rhonda January 9, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Me before you Jojo’s moyes a beautiful book.chanel bonfire Wendy glass an unreal childhood.

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82 Beverly S. January 10, 2013 at 10:41 am

This book is at the top of my “want-to-read” list. Thanks for the chance to win a copy. :) I read a lot of great books in 2012. Here’s some of my favorites:
World War Z, The Baker’s Daughter, The Prize Winner of Difiance, Ohio, etc.
But I think my favorite of 2012 was Gone Girl (so many unexpected twists and turns). :) Again, thanks for the giveaway. It’s so cold here. Perfect time to curl up by the fire with a good new book. :)

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83 latanya January 10, 2013 at 1:14 pm

I enjoyed Delirium

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84 Staci A January 10, 2013 at 4:55 pm

I loved Winter Garden.

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85 Michele January 10, 2013 at 9:33 pm

I liked “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” by Ned Vizzini. I’m not usually into YA, not at all really. But my teenage daughter asked me to read it. I thought it was a very accurate account of depression, or at least of some kinds of depression.

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86 Jean F. January 11, 2013 at 8:52 am

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell – I find myself mentioning it in conversation all the time. I would love to read The Death of Bees!

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87 Jennifer W January 11, 2013 at 5:58 pm

I loved reading The Marriage Bargain. This book sounds very interesting! Thanks so much for the giveaway!

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88 Paula Tavernie January 11, 2013 at 8:16 pm

50 Shades of Grey!
ptavernie at yahoo dot com

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89 Katie Mahnken January 12, 2013 at 12:53 am

The Time Traveler’s Wife…soooooo much better than the movie! It has some really beautiful prose sections. Definitely one that I would re-read.

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90 Nancy January 12, 2013 at 8:32 am

I read Chicken Soup: Here Comes the Bride.

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91 Dana Denay January 12, 2013 at 8:57 am

50 Shades of Gray

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92 Diana Hatch January 12, 2013 at 9:29 am

I can’t just pick one book for this year – I read a lot of book and enjoyed most of them

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93 jayedee January 12, 2013 at 9:36 am

i’ve just re-read ‘stranger in a strange land’ for the first time in 15 years. always loved it…still do!
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94 Carmen January 12, 2013 at 10:42 am

I loved the Hunger Games, and also enjoyed 50 shades of grey ;) Thanks for the chance!

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95 latoya January 12, 2013 at 11:09 am

Running for my life by lopez lomong, a great read!!

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