A mixed crew of young writers, artists, and dreamers impulsively answer a classified ad to live at an "artists' colony" in remote northeastern Ontario that promises free room and board in exchange for labor. Cynthia, the honey farm's enigmatic leader, needs many hands to keep her business alive during a devastating drought. The farm-fresh produce, bountiful larder, and idyllic views sustain the newcomers initially, but before long warning signs arise. The heat is unrelenting. Water in the taps runs red like blood. Thousands of frogs rise from a nearby lake. Soon Ibrahim, a talented painter, and Silvia, his innocent muse, are the only ones remaining with Cynthia and acolyte Hartford. Ibrahim and Silvia seem impossibly naïve, slow to react as the situation degenerates. As the bees start to swarm, one senses that all is not sweet despite the honey that drips from every comb. Brief chapters cut from character to character, building tension. VERDICT Brooding and suspenseful, this first novel works best as a literary horror story. Although the characters seem distant and their motivations largely unexamined, the bee motif is strong throughout, and the biblical references, while obvious, are ominous. [Previewed in Barbara Hoffert's "Spring/Summer Bests," LJ 3/1/18.]—Christine Perkins, Whatcom Cty. Lib. Syst., Bellingham, WA
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)
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 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.
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!
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.
With a strong command of tone and a haunting sense of atmosphere, Lye’s first novel will transfix readers. At times lyrical, biblical, and otherworldly, The Honey Farm is a suspenseful and well-crafted story.
Lye’s debut is a lush psychological suspense, an intricately woven tale that balances vivid descriptions of the natural world with some complex character work. Told from the perspective of two young artists in residence at a beleaguered farm (alternating between perspectives), The Honey Farm adds layer upon layer of unsettling revelation, mounting tension as the farm’s problems mount.... Something is wrong on the Honey Farm, and the more we learn about what that might be, the more disturbed we become. A strong debut from a writer with a great deal of promise.
As the story beneath the surface begins to reveal itself... the novel builds to a twisted conclusion that you won’t see coming. The Honey Farm is one of the most satisfying books you’ll read all summer.
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.