Several weeks ago — at the start of the debut author presentations on Seize a Daisy — Lisa Kenney tagged me with a book-related meme. The rules were few and simple, while the actual purpose (I think) was much more compelling:
Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more. (No cheating!)
I purposely cheated by waiting to give Orange Mint and Honey by Carleen Brice, aka The Pajama Gardener, its own spotlight. True, some of you have already read this novel, blogged about it and/or have the lovely garden cover book waiting on your TBR pile. Then there are those who will discover Orange Mint and Honey right here and now as I move on with this meme:
Find Page 123. Find the first 5 sentences.
Post the next 3 sentences.
“I …I…didn’t mean to hear…You…” I sputtered. “You keep…I’ll go.”
“What in the world is wrong with you?” Nona asked, dropping the distant tone she had been using with me since our fight.
The above sentences are likely to be read as an obviously awkward exchange between two people — in this case, a mother and daughter — in a less than perfect relationship.
And so ends the rather curious meme. Or is it just a me?
Since I’ve already cheated, let me tell you more, beginning with Carleen Brice — an already praised and established writer of non-fiction. Here’s how she describes herself in her blog’s About Me: “While wearing pajamas, I created a water-wise garden and wrote my first novel. ORANGE MINT AND HONEY (One World/Ballantine) is available in original trade paperback. My non-fiction books are: Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number (Beacon Press in the US/Souvenir Press in the UK), Lead Me Home (Avon/HarperCollins) and Walk Tall (iUniverse).”
And this is Carleen’s synopsis of Orange Mint and Honey:
“What would Nina Simone do? That’s the question 25-year-old Shay Dixon asks of her de facto spiritual adviser, the late great High Priestess of Soul, when she finds herself depressed, evicted from her apartment, and about to flunk out of grad school.
The answer – move back home to live with her recovering alcoholic mother Nona – leads Shay back to Denver where she is shocked to discover a new Nona, sober, healthy, raising a 3-year-old, and growing a lush, healing garden.
Though reconciliation seems a hard proposition for Shay, something unmistakable takes root inside her, waiting to blossom like the flowers in Nona’s garden.
Soon Shay finds herself facing her first real romantic relationship and exciting possibilities. But when a crisis hits, even the wise words and soulful melodies of Nina Simone may not be enough for solace. Shay begins to realize that, like orange mint and honey, life tastes better when bitter is followed by sweet.”
Would you like to learn the backstory of these totally genuine characters? If so, please visit Carleen’s Bio where you’ll find an extensive and fascinating Q&A Interview which explains their creation as well as the author’s feeling that she needed maturity to relate to the mother, Nona, and successfully write the entire story.
Timing is everything and this author’s patient waiting proved well worth it, as noted by this review from Publishers Weekly:
“In Brice’s accomplished debut, African-American Shay Dixon, a burnt-out grad student, has a visitation/fantasy/fever dream featuring Nina Simone, the high priestess of soul, who counsels Shay to go home. To do that, she must face Nona, the drunken failure of a mother she’s not spoken to in seven years and blames for a harrowing childhood that left her emotionally scarred. Still, she takes Nina’s advice, heads home to Denver and discovers that Nona’s now an A.A. member with a good job, a lovely home and an adorable three-year-old girl, Sunny, Shay’s half-sister. Their reconciliation is complicated by Shay’s stubborn anger, Nona’s A.A. sponsorship of a troubled young woman and Shay’s sexual awakening. Brice’s straightforward prose is dead-on in describing the challenges Shay and her mother face as they reconnect.”
Of course there are many more terrific reviews and honors for Orange Mint and Honey, including:
Target’s selection as a Bookmarked Break Out Book for February
~ One of The Black Expressions Book Club picks
~ An Essence magazine Book Club selection — in fact, read their article/review
Better yet, you can also read the first two chapters of the novel in A taste of Orange Mint and Honey
Carleen Brice has written a smart, honest and humorous story about the serious — and often life-burdening — consequences that alcohol addiction causes for everyone involved. Because when bittersweet memories are put in perspective, there is hope. And what you plant in your garden of life will bloom within you.
What a great reminder, what a wonderful book. No wonder Orange Mint and Honey is #1 on the Denver Post paperback best sellers list! Congratulations to Carleen!!!