Editorial note: I received a copy of Mad Honey in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.
Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan is an impactful and timely story that will stay with you.
Jodi Picoult does not shy away from covering relevant and to some, controversial topics. She has this masterful way of presenting a story that seems pretty clear cut on paper and then about midway, there is a twist that changes everything.
Mad Honey is the latest example of this.
The novel, co-written with Jennifer Finney Boylan, covers so much: identity, gender, abuse, love, toxic relationships and much more. It’s not an easy read and many times, it’s quite sad but it’s also important and I think will open many eyes to the struggles that people deal with on a daily basis.
What’s the Story About
The story is told from the perspectives of Olivia and Lily. Olivia is a beekeeper and a mother to a teenager son, Asher. She left behind an abusive marriage to start over in her hometown in New Hampshire.
Whereas Lily is a teenager girl who just moved to the area with her mother. She is also hoping for a fresh start from a painful past.
Asher and Lily eventually start to date and fall in love and for once, everything seems at peace. Until one day, Lily is found dead and Asher is the number one suspect.
While Olivia believes that her son is innocent, she starts to recognize similar traits that his father holds as well. She begins to question everything she knows.
Olivia and Lily
Jodi Picoult mainly wrote Olivia’s perspective while Jennifer Finney Boylan wrote Lily’s. The final work is rather seamless and cohesive and I thought their collaboration was quite strong. I was so engaged with both characters and their journey. I so wished for a better outcome for Lily as her story is so heartbreaking.
In many ways, Olivia and Lily are quite similar. They have suffered abuse and left toxic relationships. And they both love Asher.
Olivia’s story is told in present time while Lily’s is told backwards. I’m not sure why they made that choice—perhaps it was to keep the twist hidden longer. It didn’t bother me but I know some readers had a problem with that.
I hope readers approach this story with an open mind. I keep these spoiler free and I don’t want to reveal the twist. I think some will probably see it coming and others may not. I’ve read reviews that explain key plot points and sometimes it’s fine for the particular story but other times, you want to go into the novel fresh and not have that reveal in the back of your mind.
I believe the authors chose to present the story like that for a reason and I want to respect their process.
That said, speaking in somewhat vague terms, I feel like this was eye opening story covering a segment of the population that is underrepresented in the media—unless, they’re being vilified by politicians.
This story, while of course fiction, does give a face and voice to the journey that many people go through.
Mad Honey is an important and impactful read. It’s very well done and will make you think. And those are always the ideal book club selections.
I see why Good Morning America chose this for their October pick. It will for sure get a lot of people talking.
However, there is a melancholy feel to it though and it’s quite tragic. So something to keep in mind.
Check out my book club questions here.