Author Playlists

Julie Carrick Dalton’s Playlist for Her Novel “The Last Beekeeper”

“This playlist functions as a score for the movie version of The Last Beekeeper that I fantasize about.”

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Roxane Gay, and many others.

Julie Carrick Dalton’s novel The Last Beekeeper is a stunning debut, a post-apocalyptic literary thriller that boldly speaks to the present.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

“The disappearance of the world’s bees, along with the other pollinating insects, in an ecological disaster dubbed the Great Collapse provides the backdrop for this moving post apocalyptic thriller from Dalton… Dalton does a fine job imbuing all the characters with plausible emotions and reactions to their grim reality. Superior worldbuilding.”

In her own words, here is Julie Carrick Dalton’s Book Notes music playlist for her novel The Last Beekeeper:

I spent a lot of time in the mind of my younger self as I wrote my second novel, The Last Beekeeper. Although it’s set in the near future, it evokes nostalgia for me. Nostalgia for carefree days of running wild in the woods behind the house where I grew up, splashing in the creek, and trying to find my place in the world. Building community. Finding love.

The Last Beekeeper is a near-future, dystopian novel about a beekeeper and his daughter as the world’s pollinator population collapses, launching the world into agricultural and economic crisis. It’s a story about found family, redemption, speaking truth to power, and hope in the face of global crisis. Think Station Eleven meets Once There Were Wolves.

In one of the timelines, my main character Sasha is eleven. In the other timeline she is in her early twenties. The soundtrack I’ve created reflects Sasha’s unease as she clings to a past that no longer exists, longs for a future she can’t quite envision, and hides from a sense of destiny that simultaneously beguiles and terrifies her.

Most of the songs yank me back to that time in my own life when I was trying to figure out who I was. This playlist functions as a score for the movie version of The Last Beekeeper that I fantasize about. (Did I mention that the rights are available?) I hope you enjoy this musical tour of The Last Beekeeper.

1 Bigger by Beyonce

Bigger, which is Sasha’s theme song, plays in the background of the opening pages of The Last Beekeeper and loops back in during several key moments in the adult timeline. Readers first meet Sasha at age seven as she and her father tend their beehives. Her father convinces Sasha she has a special connection to the bees, that she is destined for something bigger, something mystical. This belief – whether real or imagined – shapes Sasha’s life and sets her on a course that could lead to her downfall or her salvation.

2 Watershed by The Indigo Girls

I couldn’t possibly make a music list about angsty twenty-somethings without a track from the Indigo Girls, who dominated the mental soundtrack to my own angsty twenties. Watershed feels just right for the moment when Sasha walks the deserted, cracked road back toward her childhood home. Like the song references, Sasha stands at a fork in the road, reflecting back on her past, recounting how she got to this moment, and wondering what lies ahead.

3 Tin Angel by Joni Mitchell

When twenty-two-year old Sasha returns to her childhood home after an eleven-year absence, Tin Angel is playing in the background as she walks through the run-down farmhouse now occupied by squatters. Nostalgia and grief wash over her, yet hope edges in as she imagines a new way to live, a new way to love.

4 Empty Garden by Elton John

Elton John’s tribute to John Lennon is the first song that came to me when I was working on The Last Beekeeper. The image of the empty garden, the sorrow of missing the absent gardener, imagining what could have been. The haunting loneliness in this song feels just right for Sasha, adrift in the world and clinging to memories of growing up on the farm with her parents. Seeing her mother’s overrun, tangled garden is a reminder of what she once had and what her life could have been like. She longs for her parents to give her guidance as she navigates early adulthood alone in their empty garden.

5 The World Turned Upside Down by Billy Bragg

Billy Bragg is my absolute favorite singer/songwriter. And this is one of my favorite songs in the world. Based on the story of a 1649 uprising, it’s about land ownership, challenging power, and facing enemies even when out-numbered. It’s about fiercely believing in what is right and acting on it, regardless of the consequences. Themes of land rights, governmental overreach, and inequality play big roles in The Last Beekeeper. The World Turned Upside Down’s invigorating beat encouraging the down-trodden to rise up thrums in the background of several scenes in The Last Beekeeper.

6 Sign O The Times by Prince

Sign O the Times is playing as Sasha bikes past the construction site for an enormous greenhouse complex being built on former agricultural land near the farmhouse. Sasha worries about the people it will draw, the settlements, lack of food, and threats to their safety. Things are changing too fast. Is the enormous government project going to save, trap, or destroy them?

7 Hunter by Joni Mitchell

Hunter reminds me of Sasha’s complicated relationship with Millie, a fifty-something squatter living in the farmhouse when Sasha returns home. Reminiscent of the stray cat in Mitchell’s song, Millie could be an angel or a devil, a confidant or an adversary. Sasha wants to trust her, but she’s scared of being let down.

8 Water to the Well by Connor Garvey

Water to the Well reminds me of the way the Sasha and her found family care for and love each other. They all showed up to the farm wounded and disillusioned, but hoping for a better life. This song captures that feeling of being so close to someone that you accept their flaws along with their gifts. You can’t heal their pain or make them see themselves the way you do, but you can be there to hold each other up.

9 Regret by New Order

This is the song that will be playing in the background of the obligatory montage in the middle of the The Last Beekeeper movie. Clips of the group of squatters enjoying their pieced-together life on the farm. Working in the garden, cooking together, laughing, and drinking terrible home-brewed beers around a fire. Joy in the middle of the hardship that drew them together. Each of the friends found their way to the farm with a past and plenty of regrets, but also with hope that they can still find joy.

10 Meteor by Connor Garvey

When Sasha and Bassel watch shooting stars while lying in a field, of course, Connor Garvey’s Meteor is playing. Their worlds are colliding, their pasts entwined in ways they don’t quite understand. But there they are, looking up at the expanse of the universe, trying to imagine a stable place in an unstable world. “You have landed safely now. . . May you lay your burden down,” Garvey sings. Sasha and Bassel both have heavy burdens to lay down and are wondering, is this a person I can safely lay my troubles down next to?

11 Let’s go Crazy by Prince

This is the song Sasha and Bassel dance to in the barn. They are about to confront their greatest fears, risk everything they have worked for, and potentially change the world. At the same time, they are discovering each other, the potential for love and joy that still exists in their messed up world. Their only option is to go for it, to let loose and go crazy with one last joyful dance before reality crashes in.

12 Carolina by Taylor Swift

Before Sasha can enact her grand plan, secrets come out that alienate her from her friends. Heading into the scariest moment of her life, she feels entirely alone. But she is in a familiar place, the woods of her youth, the place where it all started. Although the book is not set in Carolina, the sense of attachment to a place and to the natural world, paired with the loneliness and longing in Swift’s voice, evokes the complicated stew of emotions Sasha is wrestling with as she marches toward her destiny.

13 Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana

This is young Sasha’s rage song at the end of the eleven-year-old timeline. When she takes a stick and beats on her tire swing to release her anger, rage, and fear, Smells Like Teen Spirit rages along with her, and it will return again in the adult timeline when she pummels that same tire swing to release her heartache and fear.

14 Closer to Fine by The Indigo Girls

The less I seek my source for some definitive, the closer I am to fine,” as the song goes, is a lesson that takes Sasha a long time to learn. She needs to follow her own instincts and not seek anyone else to tell what she needs to do.

15 I Will Wait For You by Mumford & Sons

This is the note The Last Beekeeper movie ends on. The banjo and the vocal harmonies in this song feel just right for the final scene on a bumpy road. It’s uncertain, but hopeful, which is how I hope my readers feel when they finish the last line.

As a journalist, Julie Carrick Dalton has published more than a thousand articles in The Boston Globe, BusinessWeek, The Hollywood Reporter, Orion Magazine, Electric Literature, and other publications. A Tin House and Bread Loaf alum, and graduate of GrubStreet’s Novel Incubator, Dalton holds a master’s degree in literature and creative writing from Harvard Extension School. She is a frequent speaker on the topic of writing fiction in the age of climate crisis. A mom to four kids and two dogs, Dalton is an avid skier, hiker, and kayaker. A former beekeeper, she also farms a gorgeous tract of land in rural New Hampshire.

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