Rating: 5 stars
Buy Link:
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Length: Novel

 

For much of her 82 years, Honey has lived life on her own terms. When her father would have had her marry, she left home. She has traveled the world, and collected, bought, and sold art for an auction house. She wears beautiful vintage dresses, and owns her own home, her own money, and her own heart. But when Dominic — friend more than lover, someone with whom she can remember the past while enjoying the present — dies suddenly, Honey is left alone. Dominic was all she had left. Her friends are dead, as are her parents, her brother, and everything and everyone she ever cared for.

It’s at this low point that Honey meets Jocelyn, who has just driven over one of Honey’s trees. Jocelyn is her neighbor, obnoxiously friendly, insistent, and just as lonely as Honey. Reluctantly, Honey begins to pay attention to the girl, even as her mind wanders more into the past. Then there’s her nephew, Corrado, who shows up to support her, along with his wife, son, and daughter-in-law. Honey has never been one for family, not since her brother died, but Corrado, like Jocelyn, is insistent. Unpleasant, too, a bully used to getting his own way with a wife too easily cowed. He reminds Honey of her father, and it’s not a flattering comparison. There is also Michael, the grandnephew who came to her for money, again, before storming off, not to be seen again. Perhaps because the boy reminds her a little of herself in the way he’s turned his back on the family, Honey takes an interest in him, even as another young man, Nathan, takes an interest in Honey. In his mid thirties, and an artist, he seems pleasant but foolish. After all, there are differences in age … and differences in age. He’s a child; when he was born, she was nearly 50, and while it’s flattering, Honey is certainly not interested in another affair at this stage in her life.

Honey is a book about a woman who has lived a life … and now has to deal with the consequences. In her youth, she slept with married men, one of them being the husband of her best friend, and when it was brought to light, it ruined the friendship she treasured the most. Having returned to New Jersey because she felt she ought to, because her two remaining friends were gone and Honey was alone, she also returns to face the looks of the ex-friends and acquaintances who judge her, even now.

Not that she cares, of course. Honey is fine where she is, with expensive dresses and elegant perfume, priceless paintings hung in next to the stove where they give her joy, and living life as she pleases. And yet … when Jocelyn reaches out, wriggles her way into Honey’s life like a puppy, Honey doesn’t say no. Whether she’s too polite or too tired, she allows the girl to text her, to visit her, to chatter at her (sometimes Honey listens, often she doesn’t), and when Jocelyn ends up in a questionable relationship, Honey stirs herself to make certain Jocelyn knows she has a friend.

Honey was brought up in an older age with different rules for these things, such as “mind your own business.” But when Jocelyn’s “boyfriend” starts threatening Honey, she does what any sensible woman would do and retreats. It’s interesting watching her go from confident to cringing, and not just because of the fragility of her age. Honey grew up in an abusive home, has seen more than enough violence in her life, and was trained from an early age to be quiet, to be pretty, to be blind. It’s still the first instinct; it’s the second one, the one learned over years of life, that has her still reaching out for Jocelyn, again and again, much as she reaches out for the ghost of Michael.

Michael, her grandnephew, is more an idea than a person, for Honey. If he left, that’s fine; that was his choice. But to be thrown out, to be attacked by his father, that’s wrong. But when she learns the reasons Michael left, Honey gives no judgement. She simply goes to google to look up transgender, and opens herself to a new world. Honey has never had an issue with the homosexuals, men or women, and only wants to help … but it may be too little, too late.

This book is 400 pages, but I read it in a single evening. The writing is as elegant as Honey, flowing easily, and Honey’s voice comes through so very clearly. While there’s not much plot in the book, there is a lot of story, watching Honey reflect on her life then and her life now, with the major focus of the book being her present. The past is there to show what shaped her; it’s part of her story, but not part of this one. (Though I would have loved to learn more of Honey’s past and past friendships.) The romance isn’t all that strong, personally, but the connection between she and Nathan as they talk about art and artists, about symbolism and color and how art makes them feel was beautifully done.

I don’t often venture into literary fiction, but I’m so glad I did, this time. I had such fun with this book.

Note: There is subject matter here that may be difficult for some readers. Trigger warnings for suicidal ideation, rape, pregnancy, loss of a child, carjacking, drug use, domestic abuse, homophobia, home invasion, and gun violence.