Honey: A Novel

Image of Honey: A Novel
Release Date: 
April 16, 2024
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Honey is a bittersweet concoction of loveliness, regret, hope, growing old, second chances, mortality, loneliness, inescapable familial bonds, long-nurtured grudges, and final reckonings.”

Although Honey Fasinga is 82, vanity causes her to routinely subtract several years from her actual age should someone dare to ask how old she is. However, due to the good fortune of having weathered the years well Honey easily passes for a much younger woman.

As a college graduate working at an art auction house in New York City Honey distanced herself from her violent, criminal family in New Jersey. Eventually she put even more distance between herself and them by moving across the country to Los Angeles where she forged a new, successful life working in a prestigious auction house, finding glamour, comfort, and purpose in the beautiful art.

“. . . what she loved most about painting was the way it could make peace between what seemed to be irreconcilable ideas. In the Morandi, it was a truce between beauty and sadness; in Redon, beauty and madness.”

Honey, a novel by Victor Lodato, is an empathic journey through the inner life of a woman who is looking back on her past, second-guessing the choices she has made and contemplating whether or not hers is a life worth living any longer.

After retiring from a long career at a prestigious L.A. auction house, and then shaken by the death of her two closest friends, Honey decides to move back to New Jersey. Her father, mother, and brother have been dead for many years but her nephew and his family are still there, and still doing business in the sordid underworld she’d witnessed growing up.

In New Jersey Honey and an old acquaintance, Dominic, fall in love, but when he drops dead one night in the middle of dinner she realizes he is probably the last lover in her life and hopelessness creeps in. After Dominic’s burial in the same cemetery as William Carlos Williams she visits the poet’s grave, where her thoughts sum up life as she sees it:

“So much really did depend upon the red wheelbarrow.

“Though perhaps that was no longer true. Perhaps that was another world, one in which poetry was possible. A world like the one her great-grandparents had lived in—olive trees, chickens, a fertile patch of dirt.

“But then history happened. Wars. Betrayals. The chickens died, the olive trees were burned. Everyone grew hungry and, finally, when they couldn’t take it anymore, they put up their fists. The weak became the strong, some of them even punching their way to America.

“And here we are, thought Honey, driving away from the cemetery. Here we are.”

Sometime afterward she remembers a handgun she stashed away after her brother’s death and begins to hatch her demise, seemingly at peace with it. But life, as it turns out, is not ready to relinquish its hold on her. Events out of her control—a strange interaction with her grandnephew, a chance meeting with an artist who makes his interest in her apparent, the curious protectiveness she feels for the odd young woman living next door, and her reluctant reconnection with her long-estranged relatives, all keep Honey tethered to the present.

Honey fluctuates between wanting to end it all and wanting to see how it all ends. She determines to stick around until her 83rd birthday and, with the help of some long forgotten diet pills she finds in her medicine cabinet, she feels invigorated enough to undertake a new exercise regime.

“How, she wondered, have I gotten here? From suicide to sit-ups. From the existential black veil to pale pink leotards. But hasn’t she always been like this—capricious, quixotic, vain to the core? And though she senses the gun in the drawer chiding her (What about me?), she understands that what she’s doing here on the floor doesn’t contradict it. As a great sage once said: One must be strong to live, stronger to die.

“Old age was not for scaredy-cats. Not for weaklings. Especially if one wanted to break free of its chains, as Honey did. Besides, the end of creation should be as wondrous as the beginning—and Honey wished to go out with a bang, not a whimper.”

As Honey puts thoughts of suicide on hold she becomes more involved with the problems in her nephew’s family, drawn in by her concern and advocacy for her troubled grandnephew. She always blamed her father and the family for everything wrong in her own life, but now as she stares at the reflection of an elderly woman in the mirror she begins to gain a deeper understanding.

“Honey had only recently considered her own rage. And though she no longer wished to deny it, she also allowed herself the belief that she’d transmuted it into something better—even if only a militant insistence on elegance. Just before she fell asleep, though, she thought of the gun. It was curious, that she’d chosen it as her exit strategy. Why this little horror and not the more subtle undoing of pills? A gun for someone so vain—it was an odd choice, no? The blast would deform her face.

“But maybe that was precisely what she wanted. To blast through the veneer and see what was underneath. Maybe it had to end in violence.”

But not so fast. She weans herself off the alcohol and pills she’s been depending on lately and sobriety spawns uncertainty. Honey realizes there is more to be done. More to learn. More to live for.

“Part of her still longed to die. But how did one die in the spring, in that glory and fullness?”

Honey opens her heart and gradually lets others in. She recognizes similarities between herself and her nephews, and the combined damage of their shared experiences. In the ambivalent space between life and death she thinks of God.

“. . . His mean trick of separating us into various forms, so we’d forget that we were all the same—a single piece of fabric stitched into different costumes. It was this persistent delusion that lay at the root of all human strife.”

Honey is a bittersweet concoction of loveliness, regret, hope, growing old, second chances, mortality, loneliness, inescapable familial bonds, long-nurtured grudges, and final reckonings. The charming, wounded, courageous Honey Fasinga is an endearing character you won’t easily forget as she puts her best foot forward, elegantly dressed to face each day.