I’ve enjoyed reading plenty of Jodi Picoult novels in the past, often finding them to be thought-provoking in their exploration of controversial topical issues. Although it’s really difficult to say much about it without spoiling the book for readers, it’s safe to say that fans of Picoult will not be disappointed and that I think Boylan will be gaining quite a few new followers.
I was initially attracted to Mad Honey by the promise of lots of bees (which I love!). At the start of the novel, we are introduced to Olivia – a single mum who fled her abusive marriage with her son, Asher, when he was six. Olivia has returned to her hometown and has taken over the family’s beekeeping business. Readers are treated to in-depth commentaries about the care of hives and their bee colonies, which I found fascinating.
Now in his last year of high school, Asher is a kind, good-looking and popular ice hockey player with a bright future ahead of him. Asher’s girlfriend, Lily, has recently moved to the area after her and her mother have also moved with the hope of a fresh start. She and Asher are perfect for each other and Lily finds that this is someone who she can finally trust with all her secrets. Lily is an intelligent girl and enlightens us with a wealth of knowledge about bees, their folklore and literary history.
Just when things seem to be fitting together perfectly, 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 well as we think we do.
Mad Honey is a suspenseful novel which is full of twists and turns. I wasn’t sure how well this collaborated novel would work, but I was amazed to find out, in the notes at the end, that Jodi Picoult had written the sections about Olivia whilst Jennifer Finney Boylan had penned those attributed to Lily. The result is a seamless telling of two women’s stories which are both equally heartbreaking.
I really enjoyed this book. It was a compelling, page-turner of a read which featured some genuinely jaw-dropping moments. A clear five stars from me.
Content warnings: Domestic violence, death, transphobia.
Thank you to NetGalley UK, Hodder and Stoughton, Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.