By: Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan
Published: October 4, 2022
Publisher: Ballantine Books
The idea for MAD HONEY came from Jennifer Finney Boylan’s dream. She woke from the dream and tweeted about it tagging Picoult. MAD HONEY is the result of that dream come true and the particular plot she wanted to write with Picoult.
I have been a long-time fan of Jodi Picoult’s, even getting to meet her in person at a book signing event years ago. I can always count on Picoult’s books to challenge my thoughts about a topic, a disease, or some event. Her books are known for having a big twist or surprise in them that readers often don’t see coming. MAD HONEY encompasses all of that. Her latest with Finney Boylan offers a story of two single moms raising their children the best they can. There are numerous trigger warnings in this book including domestic violence and suicide. But, a huge piece of this story is one that can be quite divisive and is ripped from the headlines. I recommend you go in knowing very little in order to have the best experience reading it. I have to admit, I wasn’t sure I could finish this one, but I kept at it and am glad I finished it. These two authors definitely taught me a new perspective on a hot topic as well as an immense amount of information about raising bees and honey. I was delighted to see the honey recipes at the end of the book. .
“We both fall silent for a little bit. We don’t say it out loud, but we’re both thinking: it would be nice if there were some things you could forget.”
Each author took a character’s voice and then also wrote one chapter in the other character’s voice. But, truly, the story was seamless and a reader would never know there were two authors. The story is told alternately from the perspective of Olivia, a second-generation beekeeper who has recently returned to her home of Adams, New Hampshire to raise her son Asher, a senior in high school. Lily is a new student at Asher’s high school. She and her mom, Ava have recently moved there to start fresh after living in California. Lily and Asher begin dating and become inseparable. When Lily is found dead, Asher is arrested for her murder.
“He is right; you don’t ever recover from losing someone you love-even the ones you leave behind because you’re better off without them.”
Along with the alternating chapters, Lily’s story is also told backward, which took some getting used to. Olivia’s story is moving forward at the same time the reader is learning what led up to the day of the murder. As a mom, I struggled numerous times with the emotions in this story. One mom is grieving over the death of her child and the other mom is grieving that she might lose her child forever to the prison system. It’s a hard story to take and one I had to put down a few times to take a break. But, that is sometimes what makes a story great. It doesn’t gloss over the rough parts but hits you solid right between the eyes.
“Do not listen to anyone who tells you a broken heart is a metaphor. You can feel the cracks and the fissures. It’s like ice splintering under your feet; like the cliff crumbling beneath your weight.”
Both authors hope this novel inspires compassion while also educating the reader on a sensitive topic. Ultimately, this is a story of two moms who do everything they can to protect their children and yet, they can’t protect them from everything. As a mom, that hurt, yet it reminded me that sometimes we can do everything in our power to protect them, and ultimately, we have to let them live the life ahead of us.