HarperCollins, 2018 245 pages
Twelve-year-old Della lives on a rural farm with her parents and baby-sister and her best friend right next door. She has lived in the same tight-knit community her whole life and the farm has been in the family for generations, providing a peaceful and comfy existence. All of this changes one summer when drought threatens to force the farm into foreclosure and Mom begins to act strangely--again. Della's mom suffers from Schizophrenia and her medication seems to be no longer working. Della and Dad try to hide Mom's relapse, but it becomes a secret too big to conceal and life begins to spin out of control as Mom becomes increasingly irrational. Finally, Della turns to a kind beekeeper, whose honey is said to have magical properties. Could this be the answer to all of their problems? As Della seems to drown under the pressures of the drought and Mom's condition, help comes from unexpected places and the small family realizes that they aren't alone as the community bands together to offer support.
I read this book since it is coming up on many best-of-the-year lists. It is a beautifully and carefully written book that is worthy of the praise it is receiving. I did not buy it for my library because I thought that the rural setting and quiet nature of the story would not appeal to my population of young readers. After reading the book I think that it would be enjoyed by a large cross-section of readers: if they give it a chance. It will require some hand-selling and word-of-mouth publicity to find its audience. That said, fans of the current trend of problem novels such as Wonder, The Thing about Jellyfish and Mockingbird, will enjoy this title, if they crack into it. The rural North Carolina setting is fully realized and the pain of both Della and her father is strikingly felt by the reader. A touch of magical realism is introduced in the honey: is it really magical? The true magic of the novel lies in the power of community and multiple generations working together to solve a problem and support a struggling family. Children who have a family member suffering from mental illness will find comfort within these pages and those without will learn a bit about the greater world. A little gem of a book that is worth the time invested.