Imagine yourself as a five-year old little girl. Your last memory of your mother is a cryptic message about ‘The Honeysuckle Girl’. This is Althea’s story. Fast forward. Two weeks away from age 30, Althea walks back into her father’s house after completing drug rehab. Greeted by her politician brother, Wynn, & his politically correct wife, Molly Robb, it’s explained that their father has taken a bad health turn. Althea knew he had Alzheimer’s, but hadn’t expected him to be so sick so soon.
In his sickened state, he drops a bombshell about the women of their family. Apparently, mental illness is prevalent & they all achieve it at age 30. Finding solace in the arms of old boyfriend, Jay, Althea resolves to uncover exactly what happened to the women in her family. She needs answers especially about her mother’s early death. But, uncovering the truth is not something that she’s prepared for in the slightest. She’s about to embark on the scariest, sober roller coaster ride of her life.
Even though all families carry skeletons in their closets, not many families will stop at nothing to keep theirs locked away. What Althea finds is a generations long story. It will shake her to the depths of her soul, however, she owes it to the women before her to find out their true stories. With 30 around the corner, Althea is just about out of time.
Tackling any sort of illness in fiction can be touchy. Emily Carpenter takes on Alzheimer’s and various mental illnesses like schizophrenia. Althea is beyond flawed & that it what is so wonderful about her. When I began reading, I had no idea where the book was headed. At times, I fretted that we were going to dive into the supernatural, but when all is said and done, readers will quickly realize that everything had its place.
What is scary about the plot is that it is not just possible but probable that things occur in reality as Emily Carpenter has laid out in fiction. Fractured families and those who desperately cling to secrets decades old are not new material. The difference between this family & others (fictional or otherwise) is how tragically real this one seems. At times I found myself cheering for Althea and other times wondering if no one would help her. As for the ending, I was not expecting it. The novel as a whole is profound and incredibly well written. But, the ending chapters are that splash of cold water to the face that make readers go , ‘Wow!’. I give it 5 stars.