The book you need to read, white Bordeaux, and cranberry sauce
It’s November 20 as I write this, which is National Transgender Remembrance Day. I finished Mad Honey yesterday and the story really touched me. This novel can make a difference. I read an Amazon review where the writer said, “It gently, yet poignantly, opened my mind up to discover prejudices that I have unconsciously formed in my mind. This … story knocked them right on out the door, and has replaced them with empathy and respect …”
Book: Mad Honey, by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan
Ballantine Books, 2022
Amazon’s Best Books of October and Best Books of 2022: Literature and Fiction
My problem, at the moment is to be careful about how much of the story to reveal. I bought this book thinking “whodunit?” and because it’s on Amazon’s “Best Books of the Year list.” It’s so much more than just a mystery.
Let me start with trigger warnings: Mad Honey touches on LGBTQ+ issues, transgender issues, abortion, domestic abuse, and bullying. Mad Honey is also a “whodunit” with a couple of unexpected twists, and somehow it all works together.
“People always talk about how their love for you is unconditional. Then you reveal your most private self to them, and you find out how many conditions there are in unconditional love.”
Without giving away plot points, this novel is about love: love between a couple, within a family, and loving yourself. It is filled with empathy and heartbreak. Mad Honey was written by two prolific authors. Jennifer Finney Boylan had a dream about writing this book with Jodi Picoult, they touched base on Twitter, and it was written during lockdown.
Sometimes, making the world a better place just involves creating space for the people who are already in it.
Mad Honey has two narrators, Lily and Olivia. Lily is a senior in high school, a talented cellist, and should have her whole future in front of her. She is the new girl at school. She quickly falls in love with an all-American boy and they become inseparable. Then one night, Lily is found dead in her boyfriend’s arms. Lily tells her own story backwards from the night of her death until arriving in her new town months earlier.
Asher is Lily’s boyfriend. His mother, Olivia, is our second narrator. Olivia is a single mother, having left an abusive marriage when Asher was only 6. She is a beekeeper, and we learn about the inner lives of bees through Olivia’s eyes. Asher is arrested for Lily’s murder, maintaining his innocence. Olivia’s story moves forward in time, tracking Asher’s imprisonment, trial, and the emotional toll it takes on everyone.
As we continue, the real murderer is revealed. It’s actually not who I thought it would be at all, and the authors throw in a couple red herrings along the way.
I want everyone to read this book because although it is a murder mystery, it also tells a very important story. Again, without explicitly sharing plot points, seeing the world through Lily’s eyes is powerful. So do yourself a favor; go read it.
Whodunit or not, Mad Honey has some heavy content. So take a deep breath.
Ok. Let’s lighten the mood with some wine.
Wine: 2020 Chateau Fage Graves de Vayres White Bordeaux
Blend: 40% Sauvignon Blanc, 60% Semillon
Graves de Vayres, Bordeaux, France
I love white Bordeaux. I first came across it on a press trip to Bordeaux in 2012. I have to search it out, as the usual chain stores generally only carry reds from Bordeaux. While I enjoy those too, Semillon remains one of my favorite grapes.
I like to think of Semillon as a ladder. It’s sturdy, can keep its drunk friends upright, and has a good personality. The Semillon provides a creamy foundation to this wine, while the Sauvignon Blanc adds a lighter citrus zest mid-palate and on the finish.
Is this a fancy Bordeaux? By no means. But it is a great value and a good everyday white.
Since it’s the day before Thanksgiving here in the US, I thought I’d mention my twist on cranberry sauce for the table.
I like my cranberries fresh (no canned jelly). This recipe is the Ocean Spray recipe on the back of their cranberry packages. There is just one change: substitute 1 cup zinfandel for the 1 cup water. Try it, and let me know what you think.
Have a great holiday week!