Book Review: Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan

About the Book:

Olivia McAfee and Ava Campanello have each had a change of life forced upon them. Olivia never dreamed that after her messy divorce she would find herself back in her sleepy New Hampshire home town, living in the house she grew up in and taking over her father’s beekeeping business. Ava is also in search of a fresh start, moving to Adams with her daughter Lily, who is in her final year of high school.

For a short while these new beginnings are just what everyone hoped for. Olivia’s son Asher falls for the new girl at school, and Lily can’t help loving him in return. With Ash she feels happy for the first time, yet she wonders if she can trust him completely.

Then one day Olivia receives a phone call. Lily is dead and Ash is being questioned by the police. Olivia is adamant that her son is innocent, but she also recognises the flashes of his father’s dangerous temper in him. As the case unfolds she realises Ash has hidden more than he’s shared with her.

Fan favourite Jordan McAfee, previously in The PactNineteen Minutes and Salem Falls, returns as Ash’s lawyer and Olivia’s brother.

Mad Honey is a gripping novel of suspense, a poignant love story, and a moving and powerful exploration of the secrets we keep and the risks we take.

Published by Allen and Unwin

Released October 2022

My Thoughts:

Like many long-term Jodi Picoult fans, I welcomed this return to what felt like her original style of novel. A family drama, a question of morals, a crime, a court case, a twist at the end you never saw coming. Perhaps it is formulaic, but there’s a reason why she is such a well-known bestselling author. Mad Honey felt familiar but also new, the main topic underpinning the story one I’ve not read about before.

Which brings me to the other author whose name graces the front cover of this book. I hadn’t read Jennifer Finney Boylan before, I hadn’t even heard of her, but that’s not unusual for me with Amercian authors. I will admit to deciding that I wasn’t going to read this novel initially, mostly based on the fact it was a collaboration. A few people I know who had read it recommended it to me though, citing it was classic Jodi Picoult and that the reasons for the collaboration made the story all that much more truthful and solid.

After reading it for myself, I agree entirely. Jennifer Finney Boylan’s contribution, which is actually half the book, was essential. Told from two perspectives, Jennifer writes one perspective throughout, Jodi the other, and in the author notes, they tell us how they each edited the other’s chapters along with swapping once to write a chapter of the other author’s character. There is no way to guess which chapter was written by the other author. The book feels seamless, the two authors complimentary in their style and character voice.

I welcomed everything that I learnt from Jennifer Finney Boylan’s character within this novel. While I’m not a huge fan of a story unfolding backwards, it worked in this case. I felt attached more and more to Lily, even though I knew her fate and as the novel got closer to the end, I got sadder at the realisation that I’d gotten to know this beautiful young woman and become attached to her for nothing. Damn you, you clever author!

There were references to one of Jodi’s previous novels, Nineteen Minutes, with the return of lawyer character, Jordan McAfee, who is the brother of Olivia, the character that Jodi writes within this novel. The character of Jordan actually features in three previous novels, all of which I’ve read and loved. I felt this character inclusion was a sort of nod by Jodi to her long-term fans who have missed this style of novel by her.

I don’t have much by the way of criticism for this novel. It began to wear its length towards the end for me, specifically with Lily’s chapters, and Olivia’s recollections of domestic violence became repetitive. I don’t mean to diminish the topic, but I felt that it was expressed enough and then some. Olivia’s motivations early on regarding her response to her son’s arrest were questionable to me, seemingly more about what felt more comfortable for her than what was best for her son’s welfare. None of these things detracted from my overall rating of five stars. This is classic Jodi Picoult, the novel fans have been waiting for, with a twist that will leave you reeling.

4 thoughts on “Book Review: Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan

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