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Book club questions for Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan covers all the key themes in this important novel. There will be spoilers so for more context about the story, check out my spoiler-free review first.
I’m such a fan of Jodi Picoult’s books and this one is right up there with her previous great stories. Prior to Mad Honey, I had not read work by Jennifer Finney Boylan and I was very impressed with her writing style as well.
Jodi mainly wrote Olivia’s perspective while Jennifer captures Lily’s. I do feel the book is rather seamless between the two writing styles but there is still some distinctness between the chapters.
I really liked Lily and her story is so heartbreaking.
Olivia McAfee knows what it feels like to start over. Her picture-perfect life—living in Boston, married to a brilliant cardiothoracic surgeon, raising their beautiful son, Asher—was upended when her husband revealed a darker side. She never imagined that she would end up back in her sleepy New Hampshire hometown, living in the house she grew up in and taking over her father’s beekeeping business.
Lily Campanello is familiar with do-overs, too. When she and her mom relocate to Adams, New Hampshire, for her final year of high school, they both hope it will be a fresh start.
And for just a short while, these new beginnings are exactly what Olivia and Lily need. Their paths cross when Asher falls for the new girl in school, and Lily can’t help but fall for him, too. With Ash, she feels happy for the first time. Yet at times, she wonders if she can trust him completely. . . .
Then one day, Olivia receives a phone call: Lily is dead, and Asher is being questioned by the police. Olivia is adamant that her son is innocent. But she would be lying if she didn’t acknowledge the flashes of his father’s temper in Ash, and as the case against him unfolds, she realizes he’s hidden more than he’s shared with her.
Mad Honey is a riveting novel of suspense, an unforgettable love story, and a moving and powerful exploration of the secrets we keep and the risks we take in order to become ourselves.
Book Club Questions for Mad Honey
- Let’s first discuss the book’s title, Mad Honey. Why do you think this was chosen? What does it represent to the story as a whole?
- We read the story from the perspectives of Olivia and Lily. Why was it important to feature their viewpoints? In what ways are they similar?
- Olivia left behind an abusive marriage to raise her son, Asher, in her hometown in New Hampshire. She decided to keep Asher in the dark about his father’s true nature. Why did Olivia want to keep that a secret?
- Lily’s story is told backwards. Why do you feel the authors chose to tell her story in this way?
- As the trial is underway, a key fact is revealed: Lily was transgender. What were your thoughts as you read this? Were you surprised or did you already know?
- How did this reveal change everything for not just the trial but all the characters?
- We read about Lily’s past and it’s a hard one between her father’s abuse when he finds out the truth about her identity to the cruelty of her classmates. Let’s discuss Lily’s journey.
- For those not as familiar with the transgender community, what did you learn from this novel?
- What was your overall impression of Lily and Asher’s relationship?
- There’s a focus on the cycle of abuse. Asher is quite complicated but does show anger issues like his father. Did you believe that Asher murdered Lily or did you think it was someone else?
- Is Asher more like his mother or father?
- Were you surprised when Asher was acquitted?
- What happens next for Olivia, Asher and Ava (Lily’s mom)?
- There’s one more reveal at the end: Maya is the one who killed Lily. What were your thoughts as you read that?
- There’s so many themes to pick up on: identity, acceptance, the cost of lies. Which themes stuck out to you the most?
- The novel explores womanhood. In your viewpoint, what does it mean to be a woman?
- The authors said that Jodi wrote most of Olivia’s perceptive while Jennifer, who is transgender, wrote Lily’s. Let’s talk about the importance of representation in this story. What are you thoughts overall on the writing?
Hope you enjoyed book club questions for Mad Honey! Here are some more recommendations along with links to book club questions.
Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult
I, of course, have to recommend another Jodi Picoult novel! I really enjoyed Wish You Were Here and it’s absolutely so relevant.
Diana O’Toole is perfectly on track. She will be married by thirty, done having kids by thirty-five, and move out to the New York City suburbs, all while climbing the professional ladder in the cutthroat art auction world. She’s an associate specialist at Sotheby’s now, but her boss has hinted at a promotion if she can close a deal with a high-profile client. She’s not engaged just yet, but she knows her boyfriend, Finn, a surgical resident, is about to propose on their romantic getaway to the Galápagos—days before her thirtieth birthday. Right on time.
But then a virus that felt worlds away has appeared in the city, and on the eve of their departure, Finn breaks the news: It’s all hands on deck at the hospital. He has to stay behind. You should still go, he assures her, since it would be a shame for all of their nonrefundable trip to go to waste. And so, reluctantly, she goes.
Almost immediately, Diana’s dream vacation goes awry. Her luggage is lost, the Wi-Fi is nearly nonexistent, and the hotel they’d booked is shut down due to the pandemic. In fact, the whole island is now under quarantine, and she is stranded until the borders reopen. Completely isolated, she must venture beyond her comfort zone. Slowly, she carves out a connection with a local family when a teenager with a secret opens up to Diana, despite her father’s suspicion of outsiders.
In the Galápagos Islands, where Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection was formed, Diana finds herself examining her relationships, her choices, and herself—and wondering if when she goes home, she too will have evolved into someone completely different.
Check out my book club questions here.
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
Another impactful story that will make you think is Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin.
On a bitter-cold day, in the December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur exits a subway car and sees, amid the hordes of people waiting on the platform, Sadie Green. He calls her name. For a moment, she pretends she hasn’t heard him, but then, she turns, and a game begins: a legendary collaboration that will launch them to stardom. These friends, intimates since childhood, borrow money, beg favors, and, before even graduating college, they have created their first blockbuster, Ichigo. Overnight, the world is theirs. Not even twenty-five years old, Sam and Sadie are brilliant, successful, and rich, but these qualities won’t protect them from their own creative ambitions or the betrayals of their hearts.
Spanning thirty years, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Venice Beach, California, and lands in between and far beyond, Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a dazzling and intricately imagined novel that examines the multifarious nature of identity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play, and above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love. Yes, it is a love story, but it is not one you have read before.
Check out my book club questions here.