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.