Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Who is the Honeysuckle Girl and why does she need burying?

Althea Bell is still heartbroken by her mother's tragic, premature death - and tormented by the last, frantic words she whispered into young Althea's ear: Wait for her.  For the honeysuckle girl.  She'll find you, I think, but if she doesn't, you find her.

Adrift ever since, Althea is nor fresh out of rehab and returning to her family home in Mobile, Alabama, determined to reconnect with her estranged, ailing father,  While Althea doesn't expect him, or her politically ambitious brother, to welcome her with open arms, she's not prepared for the chilling revelation of a grim, long-buried family secret.  Fragile and desperate, Althea escapes with an old flame to uncover the truth about her lineage.  Drawn deeper into her ancestors' lives, Althea begins to unearth their disturbing history ... and the part she's meant to play in it.

Griping and visceral, this unforgettable debut delves straight into the heart of dark family secrets and into one woman's emotional journey to save herself from a sinister inheritance.

A well-crafted novel written from two points of view; one from the 1930s and one from the 2010s.  What starts as a simple time-sensitive search by one woman for the truth about her mother becomes somewhat of a quest that entails generations of the family and others.  It will keep you guessing right to the end.

I cannot say I was gripped from the beginning but I was certainly intrigued but once the story got involved and the first intimation of the mystery was mentioned I was hooked.  Towards the end it was a case of oh how much further ‘til the end; Ok I’ll read just one more chapter and the next I know some 2 hours later at 4.30 am I had finished and what an ending it was.

I liked the way the author wrote to book from two points of view and more intrigued as to how these women, some 75 years apart were essentially being treated the same by the men of the family.  In the 1930s women were essentially the property of their father until they were given to their husband on their wedding day and felt no remorse in butting in throughout their married life.  It would also seem that in modern Alabama, in ‘upper class’ families this is also an unspoken rule.

Although written from two points of view, there is no confusion as to which story you are reading, even though there are many similarities between the two stories which make the story more suspenseful.  It also keeps the reader reading so that we can learn the conclusion of both these inter- connected stories.

The characters are beautifully written, they have real depth of character and many redeeming features.  They are written in such a way that you want them to secure their own happiness and have a good resolution of their story; and find out what really happened on these women’s thirtieth birthday.

You empathise with Jinn and her plight; the way she is treated by her family and the distain she experiences from her young son.  One of her only bright spots is her relationship with a neighbour.  Throughout the novel you want Jinn to have her ‘HEA’.

In the case of Althea you feel all of her despair as she re-enters the world only to find that it is different to the one she left.  Again this woman is written such that you want to see her success in her quest, and to overcome her demons (both real and imagined) and history.  Althea’s exploits are both hilarious and yet in places rather disturbing.

The author also paints a very real world within which her characters live.  I have never been to Alabama but the description of the area is really vivid and comes alive on the pages.  That together with the old gothic charm added to this psychological mystery.

I was surprised to learn that this was a debut novel as the writing was so polished; and the plot well throughout and beautifully executed.  The ending was satisfying and a fitting conclusion for this novel.  You will be touched, disturbed, and appalled at Althea’s plight and treatment; so much so that you will be affected by this novel for quite a while.

I will definitely be looking for more novels by this author.  Thank you, Netgalley, for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Netgalley Review 4 stars; Goodreads review 4 stars; Amazon review 4 stars