by Cindy Baldwin
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars
12-year-old Della Kelly’s mother is going back down the the dark road to schizophrenia again, like she did four years ago. Della blames herself because her mother’s symptoms first started after Della was born. Now she has a baby sister and things are getting bad again. It becomes too much for Della as her father becomes increasingly stressed while also trying to save the family farm and adjust to the absence of Della’s grandparents, who moved about an hour a way after a health scare. Della’s best friend and next-door neighbor, Arden, whose parents are northerners who homeschool their brood and aren’t quite fully accepted by their small town. But the town comes together to support Della and her family as they learn that it’s not always better to pretend everything is fine. Though Della desperately wants to heal her mother with the Bee Lady’s magical honey, even the Bee Lady is savvy enough to know that her honey won’t heal what ails Mama, and never leads Della to believe that it will but, rather, wisely urges her to seek her own healing.
My book club did not like this one and mostly thought it was just blah, but as a kid with a parent with mental illness, this struck a chord. I think these characters will stay with me for a long while; they’re the kind that became friends. My book clubbers especially took issue with the role of the grandparents, who seemed mostly to be a device conjured for just one poignant scene near the end, but I appreciated them in that scene and all that they lent to the story as a whole. I also was interested to watch Della’s father balancing everything, including (mostly) maintaining heroic patience with Della when it would have been completely understandable for him to lose his temper.