Reviewed by Thumper
I had never made a wish like this before. Believe me; I don't harbor any gender bending, transsexual fantasies. But, after reading Gloria Mallette's latest novel, The Honey Well, I temporarily wished I wore one of those large, eye popping church hat, with a wig bobby pinned to it. So I can snatch it off my head and throw it at Gloria Mallette for writing this book! Mallette's novel of an abusive mother-daughter relationship is awesome! I loved Mallette's previous novels, Shades of Jade and Promises to Keep. I know she is a good writer who has never failed to entertain me. But, with The Honey Well, Mallette kicked it up to a whole other level. The Honey Well is an incredible, emotionally stunning novel that is simply unforgettable.
Arnell Anderson was 16 years old when her mother, Esther, approached her with an ugly request. Since their rent was months past due; Esther asked, then begged, and then told Arnell to sleep with their old Jewish landlord, so they would not be evicted. This request evolved into careers for Arnell and Esther. Arnell became a high priced prostitute and Esther became her pimp/madam. Years later, Arnell is ready to take control of her life. She has a college degree, a nice home, and is engaged to the socially prominent James Stanton. The only gray cloud in Arnell's blue sky future is Esther, who is willing to do anything to maintain her dominance over Arnell.
I am completely ecstatic over The Honey Well. I was immediately swept up into the story, which flowed like a pleasant dream. When I heard about the book last year, I was warned that the novel was unlike Mallette's previously published novels Shades of Jade and Promises to Keep. I was not lied to. The Honey Well is not a suspense/murder novel. You all have heard me say it in the past, and I will probably say it a thousand more times before I am done, there's no drama like family drama. The Honey Well proves how right I am.
The Honey Well would not have succeeded without well-developed characters that are strong, complex and flawed. Arnell and Esther are marvelous. The personalities of the mother and daughter played off the other brilliantly. Esther. Let me tell you about my girl Esther. Esther is a stone cold TRIP! She is without a doubt the mother from hell. Her love for Arnell is evident and twisted. But, in Esther, I also see how some mothers eat their young. I love how Mallette depicted Esther. Esther has different sides to her persona, a few of them paints conflicting images of her; thereby, making her utterly fascinating to watch. In the hands of a less talented author, Esther could have easily become a two dimensional villain. If Mallette had taken this route, The Honey Well would have failed miserably.
Arnell is also a study in dissimilarities: she loves her mother, yet she hates her; she knows Esther is manipulative, yet she continues to be drawn to her; she wants to get away from Esther, yet she can never bring herself to leave her. Arnell has one foot in reality and the other in dreamland. I found Arnell's battling emotions, wishes for a future without Esther, and longing for a mother's love without being victimized captivating.
As remarkable as The Honey Well is, I have one small problem with it. Mallette included a subplot which featured a teenager, Trena Gaitland, who gets caught up in Arnell and Esther's world of prostitution. While the subplot in and of itself is not bad and Mallette does a fine job in developing the characters. However, it did not enhance the already rich main plot. Trena and her troubles only took time away from Arnell and Esther. I could have done without it.
The Honey Well is an amazing book! Being drawn into the story was as easy as
falling out of bed. The sweet, poignant, painful and spicy story flowed
effortlessly. The novel is the perfect illustration of the depth of Mallette's
talent and skill. I can not WAIT to see what Mallette has up her sleeve for her