Step into the captivating world of Mad Honey, a soul-stirring novel that delves deep into the delicate dance between our past and present choices. Join Olivia McAfee, whose idyllic life shattered, forcing her to return to her tranquil hometown and inherit her father’s beekeeping legacy.
In this tale of fresh starts, Olivia’s path intertwines with Lily Campanello, a young woman seeking solace in a new town. As their lives converge, unexpected romance blossoms, but when tragedy strikes, dark secrets emerge. Gripping and emotional, Mad Honey weaves a tale of love, trust, and the haunting consequences of the secrets we keep.
Check out the below discussion guide where we have an amazing list of book club questions for Mad Honey.
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Mad Honey Book Club questions For Discussion
- Acclaimed author and New York Times bestseller Jodi Picoult has won multiple awards. Equally accomplished is Jennifer Finney Boylan – a talented writer, professor, and transgender activist. Her books have been widely acclaimed too!
Do you think the background and accomplishments of these particular authors have had a specific influence on this story?
- Jodi Picoult’s writing style typically involves tackling controversial and morally complex topics, often in the context of a procedural drama format. Her books also frequently feature a unique context or setting that requires extensive research and finds its way into the story’s themes.
What’s your take on the way Picoult handles domestic violence and transgender rights in this novel?
- Did you know that Lily’s character in Mad Honey reflects Boylan’s own experiences in several ways? Like Boylan, Lily experiences violence and assault at school when her friends learn that she is trans. She also has to grapple with fears about being marginalized and becoming a target of violence, which Boylan has spoken about in her own life.
Do you think books provide a medium for authors to express the issues they have faced in the past?
- Maya recounts how Asher aggressively grabbed Lily with such force that he left a bruise on her arm due to his moment of jealous rage in order to strengthen the prosecution’s case. This highlights the case of physical aggression as a means of communication in a relationship. This can also happen due to Asher being raised by an abusive parent.
What’s your take on such behavior?
- Lily’s experience of bullying and humiliation at the Valentine’s Day dance has a significant impact on her mental health and relationships with others. The incident triggers traumatic memories of a previous situation that already left her traumatized. This trauma and subsequent bullying have lasting effects on Lily’s mental health and self-esteem, causing her to struggle with depression and anxiety throughout the book – be it her relationships or her personal life. Discuss.
- How does Olivia’s testimony about loving someone who is abusive reflect on her own experience with domestic abuse? Do you think this theme of abuse is similar to the one that we found in The Vanishing Half? Answer only if you have read the book.
- Lily initially copes by hiding her trans identity from others and isolating herself emotionally, but eventually begins to confide in Asher and seek therapy. She also turns to her love of music and poetry as a way to express herself and cope with her emotions.
Do you think the problems that trans people face in this country are dealt with in a proper manner in this book? If not, please elaborate.
- Asher copes by compartmentalizing his emotions and avoiding dealing with his trauma. He also engages in self-destructive behaviors such as drinking and smoking as a way to numb his pain. From my personal opinion, this is not the right thing to do as it won’t do any good. Instead, seeking therapy would always be a better option.
Also, I have personally seen that men, in most cases, shy away from seeking therapy. What’s your take in this?
- Olivia’s experience of domestic violence informs her relationships with Asher and Lily in a number of ways. Her past trauma makes her highly protective of Asher and inclined to shelter him from harm, even when it may not be in his best interest. This is evident in her initial resistance to Asher’s relationship with Lily, as she worries about how Lily’s trans identity may put Asher at risk. However, Olivia’s experience with abuse also makes her highly attuned to signs of danger and abuse in others, which allows her to recognize and support Lily when she reveals her past trauma.
Discuss how important a role Olivia plays as a mother is in this novel.
- The setting of Point Reyes, California, and Adams, New Hampshire, plays a significant role in the story. Point Reyes serves as a place of refuge for Lily and her mother, Ava, as they escape from Lily’s abusive father and begin her journey of gender transition. The natural surroundings and the peace it brings to them are a stark contrast to the harsh realities of their previous life in Seattle. Lily finds solace in the bees and honey that Olivia, Asher’s mother, tends on their farm in Adams.
Based on the above conclusion, how important do you think an environment plays in the growth of a person?
- The revelation of Lily being transgender had a significant impact on the trial. It was a fact that was unknown to everyone in the courtroom except Asher and Ava. The prosecution used this information to paint Asher as an abuser and murderer, suggesting that he killed Lily because of her gender identity. However, Asher’s unexpected confession that he knew about Lily being trans but didn’t care and still loved her anyway changed the narrative of the case.
In this time and age, do you think identity/gender is still a key factor when it comes to judging someone? What’s your take?
- The underlying blood disorder that caused Lily’s death was thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP). TTP can cause neurological symptoms such as dizziness, easy bruising, abnormal bleeding, and fever.
Did you know anything about this particular disorder or any other neurological disorder that you want to share with this group?
- The prosecution didn’t press charges against Maya because her confession came after the trial, and the statute of limitations had expired. Maya had accidentally knocked Lily down the stairs while trying to get her phone to send a text to Asher, and she fled the scene in fear. Maya’s confession provided closure to Lily’s death, but it didn’t change the outcome of the trial. Asher had already been acquitted based on the evidence presented, and Maya’s confession couldn’t be used against him in court.
How much did you start hating Maya after the ending?
- The dual narrations of Olivia and Lily’s characters allow for a complex and nuanced portrayal of Mad Honey’s themes. Olivia’s voice provides a perspective on domestic violence and the legal system, while Lily’s voice provides a perspective on transgender experiences and the challenges of coming out. What is your take on this kind of narration style?
If you liked this set of questions, here are a few other options for you to explore.
Crying in H Mart: In this poignant memoir, Michelle Zauner shares her journey as a Korean American, navigating cultural identity, loss, and self-discovery. From her upbringing in Oregon to her grandmother’s apartment in Seoul, this is a heartfelt exploration of finding oneself amidst love, grief, and the pursuit of belonging.
Cloud Cuckoo Land: Anthony Doerr masterfully weaves together the stories of an orphaned seamstress and a cursed boy, an impoverished but idealistic kid seeking revenge, and a determined young woman in the future. Bound by an ancient text, their tales celebrate resilience and the power of storytelling.
Black Cake: In the enchanting world of present-day California, two siblings unravel their mother’s haunting secrets through a black cake and a mysterious recording, uncovering a family history tainted by betrayal. Join them on a captivating journey where the power of choice is the only thing that matters.
It Starts With Us: In the highly anticipated sequel to “It Ends with Us,” Colleen Hoover takes us back to where it all began with Atlas. As Lily rekindles her first love, she must navigate the complexities of coparenting and face a jealous ex-husband in a heart-wrenching tale of second chances.
It Ends With Us: In a world where love and pain intertwine, Lily’s journey takes her from triumph to doubt. As she falls for the enigmatic Ryle, her past resurfaces, testing the strength of their connection and bringing back memories of a lost love.