The Bumblebee Flies Anyway has another institutional setting (a hospital, as in I Am the Cheese), but there is perhaps a larger glimmer of hope, for the focus of the novel is on the meaning that the individual can make of his own life, in spite of overwhelming odds—in this case, imminent death.
As in I Am the Cheese, the tension is almost unbearable. Barney Snow is in “the Complex,” his name for a hospital for the incurably ill, but he does not know why he is there, for he is clearly not ill. All he knows for certain is that he is part of an experiment, as are the other young patients around him, and is being administered drugs under the careful supervision of the person he calls “the Handyman,” Dr. Lakendorp. The story of the novel is Barney’s attempt to piece together his past and with it the reasons that he is there.
His story is also tied up with the lives of the other terminally ill patients in his ward, such as Mazzo, Billy, and others. Barney falls in love with Mazzo’s sister, Cassie, who comes to visit her twin brother but who uses Barney for her own ends, and the relationship actually provides some relief from the clinical setting. Barney is also fascinated with “the bumblebee,” a wooden mock-up of a sports car that sits in a lot next to the hospital. When Barney finally discerns the truth—that he is just as ill as all the other patients there and is a victim of medical experiments to...
(The entire section is 596 words.)