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Mad Honey    by Jodi Picoult & Jennifer Finney Boylan order for
Mad Honey
by Jodi Picoult
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2022 (2022)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Jodi Picoult is widely known as a prolific writer with regular bestsellers to her credit. She and Jennifer Finney Boylan have collaborated to pen Mad Honey, an extraordinary novel of relationships under great stress.

The novel's lead, Olivia McAfee, is divorced from the renowned cardiothoracic surgeon who abused her. She and her son Asher now live in Adams, New Hampshire, in the home Olivia grew up in and inherited from her father. With it came his beekeeping business, which she took over and made her own. The beekeeping background adds fascinating depth to the story - and might make you want to try it for yourself.

As well as Asher and Olivia, another key character is whimsical Lily Campanello. Her mother, who works for the National Forest Service, relocated them to Adams for a new start after vicious bullying left Lily suicidal. Ash and Lily fall hard for each other. Olivia meets and likes Lily and all seems to be going well, but Lily is keeping a secret from Asher and Asher is keeping a secret from Olivia.

When Asher, who has wanted more contact with his own father, sets up a surprise meeting for Lily with hers, she rejects him. When Lily is killed, Asher is arrested and goes on trial. Olivia struggles to keep her unreserved belief in him, knowing well his father's temper and learning what Asher hid from her. She discovers that even a relationship 'forged in fire' can be damaged by doubt.

Mad Honey is a beautiful novel, despite also being a sad one. I especially loved Lily's self musing about growing up different - 'We aren't here on earth in order to bend over backwards to resemble everybody else. We're here to be ourselves, in all our gnarly brilliance.' Hear, hear!

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