Thursday, July 28, 2016

Burying the Honeysuckle Girls by Emily Carpenter

Burying the Honeysuckle Girls by Emily Carpenter

Published: April 26th, 2016
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Page Count: 310 (Paperback)
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense, Women's Fiction. 
Find the Author: Website

"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." - Nabbed from Goodreads Blurb

For the record - honeysuckle isn't actually completely poisonous. It's important to put that little nugget of knowledge out there right away because for the first few chapters, in the back of my mind, I was thinking honeysuckle was poisonous. Until I googled it and found out that yes, yes you CAN make honeysuckle wine. And it doesn't kill you. You just probably shouldn't let small animals or children near it..just in case.

I liked this book. I was a little hesitant because it was a freshman novel for Carpenter and it didn't really call out to me. However, it was free through Amazon Unlimited and it kept getting suggested to me. I read it in one night. (A pretty snappy read if you want to read through a book in a sitting, FYI.) I didn't love it like I want to buy a copy for my bookshelf and suggest it to all my friend who come to me for reading ideas. But, if someone led me to believe they were into the genre, had a interest or two in some of the elements of the book - I'd definitely throw out the title. 

Without giving away too much of the suspense - because it's the kind of book I think would be completely ruined if you knew how it was going to turn out - I would like to say that it hits up a lot of underlying issues. Women being suppressed and abused by a cycle of dominating, selfish men. The stigma of mental illness. The weight and struggle of addictions. Finding true love and keeping it. And the imagery - I'm a big sucker for it - there was some lovely imagery. A taste of the fairy tale and supernatural. These are all ingredients for a story that I would be interested in. Seriously, when my best friend reads this part she'll be laughing at me and saying "Oh yea, that's not a Jess book at all...". 

Despite all those winning ingredients there was something lacking that nagged me until the end. I didn't feel the emotions I should have been. Carpenter writes fantastic - she keeps the plot going, all of the big things are resolved, and there is a very satisfying end. But..but...I don't feel it. I don't feel the main character's pain as I should have. I was happy for her when she got her ending (not much of spoiling revealing that!). But, I didn't connect. And connection is a big deal for me. The reason why I can't give this a four out of five star review is because of the lack of connection I had with the characters. 

The suspense was good. I'm pretty skilled at calling it - or at least I like to think I am - but I was genuinely surprised at some of the twists and turns. It might because the novel was rather short and there wasn't a lot of time spent on certain aspects. (Now that I think about it - the shortness of the novel might have contributed to the lack of connection I had. There might not have been enough time to really ground certain emotional plot points into the reader's heart). I had no idea who the Honeysuckle Girl was. The truth was sad, real, and surprising. I had no clue what happened to the other women in her family line until it was shared. I had suspicions but I shared them with Althea. I didn't know anything more than she did even though I, as the reader, was privy to flashbacks and extra history lessons. 

Althea is a unusually unabashedly flawed woman. She comes right out and shares that she's an addict that has burned bridges, abused her relationships, and messed up so many times she herself isn't sure that this time sobering up will stick. She's fragile and emotional and she just left treatment a week early. Plus, no one knew she was coming. I liked her. Maybe I didn't connect with her emotional journey but I liked her. In fact, her messed up status was the one thing I definitely connected with. It's what kept me reading on in one night. 

I give it three out of five stars. I wish I could have given it four! Considering this is her first novel I'm going to keep an eye on Carpenter to see if she writes anything else. I might not be adding her to my physical book collection anytime soon (the ultimate compliment to any author, in my opinion, in this day and age) but reading Honeysuckle Girls was so not a waste. And I wouldn't want anyone to think I'm discouraging readers to give it a go. I liked it and I might give it another read on a quiet night when I want revisit the struggling Althea fighting to bring truth to her complicated, mysterious female family line.  

Also I kind of want to try Honeysuckle Wine now.

Until next time! 


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