EXCERPT: I drew the box to me and lifted the lid. Closed my eyes, then opened them again, hoping nothing else had been taken. It hadn’t. Everything was the same as the first time I’d opened the box all those years ago.
I pulled each item out, one by one: the prayer Dr Duncan had held, the pill bottles (six total, all of them empty), an old wine bottle label (Jinn’s Juice – The Most Refreshing!) with a name and address scratched on the back in pencil: Tom Stocker, Old Cemetery Road. An old brass and ivory hair barrette with a tiny bird, wings outstretched, in the middle of it. A postcard sized amateur watercolour painting, the paper folded into fourths, showing two women sitting under an arbor, deep in conversation. A few odds and ends like arrowheads, papery locust skins, and bottle caps.
I arranged the items in a row on the counter, the way I used to line them up across my comforter every night before I went to sleep. I touched one now with reverent fingers, like they were holy relics.
And now that thing was happening, the way it had always happened when I opened the box. The memories were taking over, expanding inside me, suffocating me. Blotting out everything reasonable and sane.
ABOUT BURYING THE HONEYSUCKLE GIRLS: 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 now 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.
MY THOUGHTS: What a wonderful debut novel. I am kicking myself that I waited so long to read this.
The characters are wonderfully developed. With the family history of madness, Althea seems bent on self destruction, maybe as an antidote to the fate that no doubt awaits her on her thirtieth birthday. Her character is at once fragile and surprisingly strong as she determines to break the cycle and solve the mystery of the fates of the previous three generations of women. I was rooting for her from beginning to end, even when she did stupid things, counterproductive to her goal. And Jinny, my heart just broke for her.
The story is told seamlessly over two timelines: Jinn, Altheas great-grandmother in the 1930’s, a time when people were broken by the war, devastated by the depression; and 2012 by Althea, the only one left who could discover what had happened to the women in her family.
The plot is superbly crafted, it doesn’t stall at all and kept my attention throughout. I just had to know if there actually was a strain of insanity running through the female line of this family, or if there was something more sinister afoot. There’s an old abandoned psychiatric hospital that features prominently in the family history, starting from the times when a man could have his wife committed if she wouldn’t do as she was told. And even more frighteningly, a newer but no less austere hospital has been built in the grounds of the old one, and it is the threat of this that Althea’s family hold over her head.
The writing is beautiful. The prose encompassed me, I could hear the strong Alabama accents as I read. I could smell the honeysuckle, almost taste the wine.
I loved this book. I loved the characters, and if I didn’t love them, I loved to hate them. ⭐⭐⭐⭐.6
THE AUTHOR: Emily Carpenter, a former actor, producer, screenwriter, and behind-the-scenes soap opera assistant, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Auburn University. Born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, she now lives in Georgia with her family. (Amazon)
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Burying the Honeysuckle Girls by Emily Carpenter for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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