Mad Honey by Katie Welch

Beck wakes up in his family’s cabin at the end of the summer, alone, uncertain how much time has passed – but certain he somehow, inexplicably, bees. His most recent memories are of buzzing, of a queen, of a simple life following instructions, getting nectar – but he was a man who worked on a local farm before the strange episode of being bees. And so Mad Honey by Katie Welch begins. Unspooling from Beck’s wakeup in his cabin, he returns to the Hopetown Farm where he works, to find that it’s nearly fall, he missed the entire growing season, and his boss/girlfriend, Melissa, is pissed. Having thrown herself into growing the farm, she’s spent the last few months of Beck’s disappearance brushing thoughts of him off. Instead, she’s decided to refocus on the search for her father, who disappeared when she was eleven. But Melissa believes he’s out there somewhere, and she can find him, somehow.

The mystery of Beck’s time as bees and Melissa’s missing father collide in a year of strange, impossible unravelling of what really happened to both of them, answers which have a way of linking to one another, despite their difference in space and time. The novel trails through the seasons, from the harvest in the fall, to a storm in the winter, and the renewal of the spring. Despite the length of time the book covers in fewer than 300 pages, Mad Honey never feels rushed; instead, Welch has created a strangely cozy story on an idyllic farm, despite the trouble arising from Beck’s disappearance and Melissa’s dogged pursuit of her father’s whereabouts.

Mad Honey is a very interesting book which tiptoes around the edge of magical realism, with Beck’s conviction that his lost summer was spent as being bees. Complicating the pragmatism of some of the characters is Beck’s mother’s Eurydice, who is a priestess of Santeria, a calling she had as a young woman in Cuba. Eurydice’s practice comes up against her husband, Matthew’s, ingrained ideas of calling upon the medical establishment to figure out what’s wrong with Beck. These happenings go on as Melissa is trying to get the farm ready for the harvest festival, dealing with her mother coming back to the farm, following up on clues to find what happened to her father, and looking in on an elderly neighbour, Marjorie. There seem to be a lot of different threads coursing through the novel, but Welch brings them all together at the end.

Mad Honey is a great spring release: a bizarre mix of mystery, the idyll of farming, and bends the limits of what can be believed. Fascinating and odd, it’s an unconventional bunch of threads woven into a traditional novel.

Katie Welch writes fiction and teaches music in Kamloops, BC, on the traditional, unceded territory of the Secwepemc people. Her short stories have been published in EVENT MagazinePrairie FireThe Antigonish ReviewThe Temz ReviewThe Quarantine Review and elsewhere. She was first runner-up in UBCO’s 2019 Short Story Contest, and her story “Poisoned Apple” was chosen as Pick-of-the-Week by Longform Fiction.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Buckrider Books (May 10 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 264 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1989496520
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1989496527

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Alison Manley has ricocheted between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia for most of her life. Now in Halifax, Nova Scotia, she is the Cataloguing and Metadata Librarian at Saint Mary's University. Her past life includes a long stint as a hospital librarian on the banks of the mighty Miramichi River. She has an honours BA in political science and English from St. Francis Xavier University, and a Master of Library and Information Studies from Dalhousie University. While she's adamant that her love of reading has nothing to do with her work, her ability to consume large amounts of information very quickly sure is helpful. She is often identified by her very red lipstick, and lives with her partner Brett and cat, Toasted Marshmallow.