Slipping into the fictional dream is easy. Lye’s beautiful prose creates an enveloping sense of place, yet the groundwork isn’t well laid for the story’s devolution into psychodrama. Hive structure and Old Testament plagues offer rubrics for understanding the novel’s complications. Both are compelling and disquieting, yet unresolved vying between schemas disrupts potential insight into characters and the novel’s ending ... In The Honey Farm, love and power are inextricably enmeshed. These blurred lines thread everything with threats until nothing seems reliable. Lye reconstitutes the terrain of gothic horror and the strangeness that’s bred from isolation.
In her atmospheric debut novel The Honey Farm, Toronto writer Harriet Alida Lye stirs the imagination and calls us to attention: Listen to the 'throttling hum of movement' and 'a hungry, unearthly cringe: the rub of wings as they fly.' This unnerving sound of swarming bees is not something I’d like to hear while I’m in my garden, but on the page, its suggestion of something sinister compels me to read on and immerse myself in the eerie world of beekeeper Cynthia’s honey farm ... The novel satisfies any curiosity about the social hierarchy of bees while hewing to a dark story line. If the author stumbles, it’s with too many secondary characters, supernumeraries waiting in the wings with little to add to the narrative; and, a small quibble, her overuse of similes. She really doesn’t need them. Her richly detailed prose, vivid imagery and effective pacing combine to make this first novel a memorable one.
It’s a satisfying setup, reminiscent of an Agatha Christie mystery, the entire cast of characters marooned together in an exotic locale. Strange events ensue. Silvia drinks from a garden hose and finds the water blood-colored. The group is afflicted with head lice. A swim in a murky pond disturbs an unimaginable number of frogs, which soon infiltrate the house. The incidents seem related to an unprecedented drought that’s making the bees anxious. Clearly, evil is afoot ... The writing is uneven, but Lye is at her best when describing the natural world ... When it comes to creating suspense, The Honey Farm succeeds almost too well.