Olivia fled her abusive marriage to return to her hometown and take over the family beekeeping business when her son Asher was six. Now, impossibly, her baby is six feet tall and in his last year of high school, a kind, good-looking, popular ice hockey star with a tiny sprite of a new girlfriend.
Lily also knows what it feels like to start over – when she and her mother relocated to New Hampshire it was all about a fresh start. She and Asher couldn’t help falling for each other, and Lily feels happy for the first time. But can she trust him completely?
Then Olivia gets a phone call – Lily is dead, and Asher is arrested on a charge of murder. As the case against him unfolds, she realises he has hidden more than he’s shared with her. And Olivia knows firsthand that the secrets we keep reflect the past we want to leave behind - and that we rarely know the people we love as well as we think we do.
This is my third book by Jodi Picoult and I love how I get drawn into her stories written against the backdrop of a subject completely unrelated but critical to the story. I haven’t read anything by Jennifer Finney Boylan before but having read this I can see how beautifully they sync their writing in a way that raises compelling questions.
Olivia and Lily’s stories discuss abuse in its varied forms. Olivia escapes her marriage to protect her son, Asher, from turning into his father. Lily and her mother, Ava, flee so they can live the life they want, rather than being trapped in one they never asked for.
This starts off as a typical murder mystery (a genre I haven’t read by Jodi Picoult before), but knowing how she likes to throw in a twist that hits you out of nowhere, I was bracing myself.
With Lily and Olivia being the two narrators, one tells the story moving forward after the event while the other narrates what lead to the event. As you get acquainted with Asher and Lily’s relationship and their history with abuse, it opens a discussion on the difference between privacy and secrecy. This may not seem to hold much importance but there is a distinct line that separates the two, even if it appears as fine as a strand of hair.
As the murder investigation progresses, secrets are teased open to reveal a shocking reality hiding underneath. The twist, when it comes, is a bolt from the blue. And this twist runs along a separate tangent of discussion on gender and identity.
Olivia’s beekeeping business is meticulously researched and weaves seamlessly into the storyline to add philosophical reasoning as well as to draw an analogy. Even describing the healing powers of honey carry much weight in the story.
This has always been my favorite fact about bees: in their world, destiny is fluid. You might start life as a worker, and end up a queen.
There is no doubt I Iove this book and all the socially relevant, thought-provoking questions it asks. The mystery of Lily’s murder with the court-room drama has edge-of-the-seat suspense. At the same time, I felt a tad disappointed, dare I say-cheated, with how it wrapped up in the end. The pulsating energy with which the book gained momentum dropped with a sharp thud, the fervour dissipating in the air.
I’ve learnt not to read reviews of Jodi Picoult’s books because I find they fall on opposite ends of the spectrum. For me, it’s enough to see her name on the cover to know I’ll pick it up no matter what and that remains unchanged. I am also looking forward to pick up Jennifer Finney Boylen’s work now that I know how this story and the idea to co-author the book came about.
An emotional but powerful tale of secrets and strength, Mad Honey is about discovering who you want to be, finding your path, and living the life that makes you happy.
Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan. This edition due to be published on 15th November 2022 by Hodder & Stoughton, a Hachette UK company. This ARC courtesy of NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton.
Book 40 of 2022.
Aquamarine Flavours Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟.
Available on Amazon*.
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