“Sinuous and captivating.” Foreword Reviews
Shortlisted for the 2019 Staunch Book Prize
For readers of Sharp Objects comes a thrilling modern noir with a fresh narrative voice that explores coming of age, desire, and the lengths we’ll go to for love
When 24-year-old Nicole Hewett’s beloved childhood friend, Honey, returns to their small northern town after an unexplained six-year absence, Nicole realizes how her life had stalled without her. But the prodigal returns with troubling secrets, and before long Nicole is drawn into a high-stakes game. Honey is a thrilling, sensuous modern noir novel with a classic refrain: nothing is more dangerous than love.
About the Author
Brenda Brooks has published two poetry collections and a novel, Gotta Find Me an Angel , a finalist for the Amazon.ca First Novel Award. She lives on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia.
Read an Excerpt
I never went back to the house on Montague Street again. I didn’t even return to town. The day of my release I thought about dropping by Robinson’s on 3rd to pick up something new to wear, give myself the illusion of a fresh start, that sort of thing, but there were bound to be a few locals around who remembered what happened so I kept driving.
All I took with me was a suitcase and that thrift store hour glass Honey gave me on Christmas Eve the night they ran off: brass, with genuine hand-blown bulbs. She said it was precise, never got clogged, the sand always ran true. It turned out to be symbolic as hell but that’s the nature of an hour glass after all: it whispers the bottom line without saying a word.
No, I never returned to Buckthorn at all. It would have been like cruising through an abandoned movie set, tumbleweeds blowing down the boulevard, the last fake storefront nailed shut which is what that Godforsaken place was bound for anyway. That’s why you’ve never heard of my hometown. It doesn’t exist anymore, at least not in the way I remember. Maybe it never did. Look at me, will you: twenty-five and already living in the past.
Honey was from Buckthorn too, although she bullshitted from childhood on about various far-flung locales being her true birthplace. I went along for the fun of it. And after all, our town being what it was? Who could blame her for getting stoned now and then and dreaming? Elba, some island in Italy, was her favorite fantasy. She had a thing about it for years. According to her she’d been born there in another life. “The life that counts,” she said. I sometimes thought she would have chosen any exotic locale as long as it had a beach, a big red sunset, and rose-colored sand. Sand that color is pretty unlikely, I told her, even in Elba, but that didn’t bother her. She liked pretty unlikely things, her dreams (and old scrapbooks) full of beaches and ruins and old trees with truffles tangled in their roots things like that. In a way I guess you could say that this whole mess came down to Honey trying to find her true-blue homeland, and me doing my best not to lose her again.
I’m not much for talking, now more than ever, although I’m sure that’s hard to believe. I mean, look at me rattling on. If you asked me where I’m from, what it was like there and what I mean by “what happened,” I’d tell you about Honey. Because she’s where I’m from, and the only place I’ve ever really been.
She’s what happened.
Reading Group Guide
- At the end of the novel, the “film club” in the psych ward breaks into two camps: romantics and realists. Which side does Honey fall on? Which camp do you think the author is in? Where do you think you land? See if the rest of the discussion changes your mind.
- How is the setting, the down-and-out small town of Buckthorn, important to the story?
- Did Nicole’s desire for Honey surprise you? If not, when did you know Nicole was starting to see her as more than a friend?
- Did the Eldorado strike you as symbolic? What does it represent to Honey? To Nicole?
- Honey is in many ways a classic “femme fatale,” who lures an unsuspecting lover into dangerous situations with her charm and feminine wiles. Does Honey challenge this archetype at all?
- Honey has only one principal male character, Detective Smith. Did the all-female cast make you see the story any differently? What different perspective does a woman writer bring to a notoriously masculine genre?
- Nicole and Honey love old movies and often quote them. What does that bring to the story? Were there parts of the book that you found cinematic?
- Nicole’s father is dead before the story begins, yet he’s an important touchpoint at the beginning and the end of the story. What does Nicole’s father represent?
- Nicole is the moral compass of the book, whereas Honey is more practical. How much do you think this has to do with class, with upbringing, with circumstances? Is Honey morally fluid because she needs to be? Do you think any of her tough girl persona is an act?
- Nicole shares many memories of her and Honey as kids. What effect do these memories have on how we see Honey and their relationship?
- Honey is set up as a shady character, but can we trust Nicole’s version of events? Are there any reasons she might not be a reliable witness?
- It’s clear by the end that Nicole wants nothing more than Honey. What do you think Honey wants?