Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Carleen Brice has written a wonderful novel about a mother and daughter in Denver, Colorado. Shay, the daughter, comes from Iowa to Denver, Colorado where her mother lives with her baby girl, Sunny. Sunny is Shay's half sister. Shay's childhood with her mother was very difficult. Shay's mother during those years was an alcoholic. After coming home again, Shay finds a changed woman. Nona no longer drinks alcohol. She is no longer a neglectful mother. As a matter of fact, Sunny could not ask for a more loving and attentive mother. This is the only problem I had with the book. It would have seemed more realistic if Shay had to struggle with loving Sunny too. There is a small, bit of bad feelings. At a blink of an eye the bad feelings are gone and she totally loves her half sister, Sunny.
Anyway, Shay also meets two new people in Nona's life and a new group she spends time talking about and visiting regularly. The new group is Alcoholics Anonymous. One of the new people is Ivy, a woman who is trying to change her life too. Ivy wants to give up drinking. Nona isIvy's AA sponsor. Since Nona has not had a drink of alohol in four years, she is the perfect person to help Ivy. The other woman is Lois. She is Nona's sponsor in AA.
The book is very emotional. I especially remember the verbal fight between Nona and Shay at church. While it was painful to read, the words needed to be said. I began to realize unhappy relationships can not begin to heal until all the ugliness is confronted first. Like the minister and the congregation, I felt uncomfortable hearing a mother and daughter shout out their dirty laundry. "I planted the mint next to the shed and it has spread all the way over to trouble the lilacs....It's my reminder that we're not always in control." I did want to cover my ears by turning a few pages. However, I did not want to miss a word. No one left the church. The minister did not leave his pulpit. It was like time stood still for these two women to exchange years and years of buried thoughts and feelings. Forgiveness, the need to move forward to a larger and cleaner space happens at different times for each person in Orange Mint and Honey.
Orange Mint and Honey is more than a novel about mothers and daughters. It is a novel about people changing their way of looking at a situation at different times. In other words, each person forgives in a different way, for different reasons and not at the same time as the other person. The novel is also about friendship. It is very painful to read about a person who self destructs a friendship. Carlene Brice also writes a love story. Romance comes when we least expect it. From whom we never thought to find it.
Speaking of romance, the theme of music as a messenger is written throughout the book. Nina Simone is Shay's guiding presence. Nina Simone is like a surrogate mother for the times when Shay finds Nona untouchable and unreachable. It's her songs that lead Shay away from Iowa and back to Colorado. "Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, Bessie Smith, Mildred Bailey. They were queens.........encouraging me, pointing me away from danger, schooling me in the ways of life. Especially Nina Simone." At the end of the journey I had taken with Nona and Shay, I was wondering where to turn next. These women in just a few days, had made themselves a part of my life. What should follow? Some times the best is saved for last. There are two recipes at the end of the book: Orange Mint And Honey Butter Cookies and Nona's Orange Mint Tea. This is a wonderful, wise and inspiring novel and one not to be missed. Orange Mint and Honey