Pub. Date: April 26th, 2016
Length: 10 hours, 1 minute
Genres: Historical Fiction/Mystery/Southern Fiction
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.
Gripping 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.
What Did I Think About the Story?
I have really been lucky lately with my selection of audiobooks! The last few I've listened to have all been exceptional, and Burying the Honeysuckle Girls is no exception. In this exhilarating Southern Gothic story, the reader gets to learn, along with its main character, Althea, the secrets that generations of her family have fought to hide. There's intrigue, murder, suspense, some mysticism, and so much more all wrapped up in a deceptive package of Southern charm.
The chapters of the story go back and forth in time between Althea in the present time trying to piece together the missing and disconnected threads of her family in order to hopefully forestall the devastating lunacy that seems to befall all women of her family on their 30th birthday, and her great-grandmother, Jinn, in the past as she nears her own 30th birthday and begins to question the life she's been living. Hearing these two women telling their own stories in their own timelines, I couldn't wait to see how the threads would come together. When they did I have to admit I wasn't quite prepared for the shocking revelations and hauntingly sad realizations unearthed.
One of my favorite aspects of the story was the Southern Gothic/mysticism interlaced through this very real and dangerous search for why the women in Althea's family all seem to go crazy - and often die - on their 30th birthdays. There is a good amount of reality-based issues going on - drug use, infidelity, racism, murder - but there's also this delicious other-worldly feeling and element that was both beautiful and intriguing as it tried to fit into the homegrown beliefs and practices of the old South.
The narrator, Kate Orsini, had a wonderful Southern accent, although she spoke pretty fast at times until it almost felt that Althea was manic (which might have been the point, now that I think of it). She did an excellent job of keeping the pace building with excitement, especially as it rounded the corner to the surprising end. I was also impressed at how well she did differentiating the voices of the various characters, both female and male, so that it was easy to know who was speaking, which can't be easy. I'd be interested to listen to more books she narrates, but it doesn't appear she has done too many to date.
In the end I was completely satisfied with Burying the Honeysuckle Girls. Althea's search unmasked not only her family's dark secrets but overarching questions for society at large, such as where the line between sanity and insanity falls and who gets to decide where that line is, how a patriarchal community, made up of good ol' boys, can damage a society for generations, and how far political ambition and power can go before the crimes committed by those with power are unearthed. With a tight and exhilarating mad-dash for truth leading to a satisfying if bittersweet conclusion, Burying the Honeysuckle Girls was a surprise hit for me. I'm in awe that this is Emily Carpenter's debut novel and I'm really excited to see what she comes up with next!
What Did I Think About the Cover?
I think it's beautiful! I'm from the South and there are few things I find more tranquil and sentimental than a dirt road overhung with a canopy of trees. There is something about that dappled light that gets me every time! I also remember having honeysuckles near my home growing up and they give off one of the most enticing smells I know. So, probably needless to say, the cover comes to life for me! And of course we have the young woman on the cover, who I think is probably Althea but could be Jinn or a number of other women. Her staring off down that road makes me wonder at all the secrets and possible horrors that might be hiding around the corner for her (I only mention the horrors now that I've read the story...I didn't think this initially). I would easily be drawn to this book, even without reading the description, due to this cover.
My Rating: 4.5/5.0
I purchased a copy of Burying the Honeysuckle girls for my own collection. You can find more reviews and links to where you can purchase the book on Goodreads HERE.