An aura of mystery, faintly tinged with menace, permeates Canadian author Lye’s sensuous debut novel set in a remote, drought-imperiled part of Ontario. Farm owner Cynthia has attracted some desperately needed extra hands by advertising free artists’ residencies in exchange for farm work. A couple of the young arrivals quickly determine that the exhausting daily round of gardening, beekeeping, and other chores leaves scant time for creative pursuits (or anything else) and split. But Ibrahim, a painter from Toronto, and Halifax native Silvia, nominally an aspiring poet but mostly a directionless recent college grad chafing at her rigidly Christian parents’ expectations, embrace the opportunity and, eventually, each other. Casting a shadow over everything, however, is queen bee Cynthia, who may have a hidden agenda hinted at by references to her vanished former partner, Hilary—apparently a dead ringer for Silvia. Though the plot falters somewhat toward the finish, Lye offers an achingly lyrical excursion into a lost Eden. Agent: Stephanie Sinclair, Transatlantic Literary Agency (Canada). (May)
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The drought has discontented the bees. Soil dries into sand; honeycomb stiffens into wax. But Cynthia knows how to breathe life back into her farm: offer it as an artists' colony with free room, board, and "life experience" in exchange for backbreaking labor. Silvia, a wide-eyed graduate and would-be poet, and Ibrahim, a painter distracted by constant inspiration, are drawn to Cynthia's offer, and soon, to each other.
But something lies beneath the surface. The Edenic farm is plagued by events that strike Silvia as ominous: taps run red, scalps itch with lice, frogs swarm the pond. One by one, the other residents leave. As summer tenses into autumn, Cynthia's shadowed past is revealed and Silvia becomes increasingly paralyzed by doubt. Building to a shocking conclusion, The Honey Farm announces the arrival of a bold new voice and offers a thrilling portrait of creation and possession in the natural world.
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Beguiled by the promise of a writers' retreat, Silvia leaves her staunchly Catholic family home for the uncertain territory of a honey farm in Northern Ontario. The Honey Farm offers readers an accomplished meditation on love, creativity and the wonder of the natural world, and a gripping exploration of a community that is perhaps not as it seems.”
In this sensuous debut, the honey is golden and enchanting, with an unexpected taste. Relatable as they are, Lye’s characters are true artistsit was impossible to fathom what they’d do next (and with whom!). Impetuous and passionate and utterly unpredictable, you’ll want to spend your entire summer on The Honey Farm.”
Harriet Alida Lye has created a modern-day Eden, shot through with innocence and foreboding. The landscape of this gripping debut is alive with tension and temptation, and I found myself seduced alongside Lye's unforgettable characters. Laying bare faith, identity, and love, this book presents a world where nothing is quite as it seems.
I loved this book. The way Harriet Alida Lye captures and registers moments of encounter with gentleness and specificity, like bees bumping against flowers - there’s magic afoot here.
The secret world of bees and the sensuous natural order in all its peril and glory come alive in this mesmerizing, suspenseful novel. Harriet Alida Lye is a writer of prodigious talent and The Honey Farm a thrilling, chills-inducing debut. Brava!
The Honey Farm delves into the intimate mysteries of art, madness, religion, and love through a story built with beautiful language and lush sensory detail. Gothic and subtly menacing, it's a book as rich as the sweet substance at its core.”
Mysterious, suspenseful, and unnerving, The Honey Farm offers a thrilling narrative that examines the distorted realities and conflicting perceptions that often exist in the quietest places.”
Two young artists grapple with love, purpose, and identity in a paradise turned sinister.In Lye's debut novel, a once-prosperous, now-troubled farm—known as The Honey Farm—is beset by problems of biblical proportions: frog-filled lakes, lice infestations, and diseased livestock. In an effort to save her land of milk and honey, the farm's enigmatic owner, Cynthia, and her assistant, Hartford, offer the property as an artist's retreat in exchange for manual labor. The summer brings together a group of artists including Silvia, a recent college graduate fleeing her religious family, and Ibrahim, an artist for whom "nothing exists...until he paints it." As the two grow closer, they slowly learn about Cynthia's past—and begin to see glimpses of a looming danger. For every intricate description of a delicate honeycomb, there's a worrisome image like hundreds of dead bees. The good exists among the bad; the light balances the dark. Short chapters, which shift between Silvia's and Ibrahim's points of view, help build suspense. As the book races to its close, the secrets beneath the surface begin to buzz as loudly as a bees nest. For a psychological thriller, the novel sometimes shows its hand too much, making the characters seem naïve or willfully ignorant. Despite this, there's a lot that's done right: the use of biblical verses and stories; the meticulous rendering of the farm; the unsettling tone woven throughout. Most important is Lye's lush, poetic prose, which soars off the page: "the earth soaks up water like someone thirsty for love," and "the world breaks and heals itself again, eternally." Each lyrical line feels like a gift left at the reader's altar.A honey-mouthed debut ruminating on creation, possession, and faith.