Thank you to Netgalley & Park Row Books for an advanced copy of this title. The following opinions are my own.
“I know who I am, but who are you? I woke up during the sunrise, and your hair and your skin and the freckles on your nose glowed like gold. Honey-gold. I think you are my wife, and I will call you Honey Girl.”
And so begins the sapphic romance between Grace Porter and Yuki Yamamoto; two lonely souls who found each other in the desert. Grace and her two roommates and best friends, Ximena and Agnes, are on a mini vacation in Las Vegas to celebrate Grace’s PhD in Astronomy. On their last night in the city Grace meets a girl with rose-pink cheeks and pitch-black hair. When she wakes up the following morning in her Las Vegas hotel room she finds a photo, a business card, and a note on the bed next to her. These are the only items she has connecting her to the woman she drunk-married the night before. She doesn’t remember her name but she can’t forget how the beautiful girl made her feel. With only these memento’s and snippets of a champagne-bubble dream, Grace and her girlfriends get on a plane and fly back to Portland, Oregon, where Grace must once again face her stark reality. The only thing Grace knows for certain is that she doesn’t want to give up her wife, whoever she is, or the connection they inexplicably have.
I’ll admit that this book started out on a bit of a bumpy course for me. The story felt a little disjointed and the prose didn’t seem to flow well. Dialogue didn’t smoothly segue into thought. Unfortunately when I read a book that starts out this way I have a hard time deciphering whether it’s the book or just me. I also felt the pacing was a little off with the first 40% of the book following Grace and her friends from day to day and then in the second half there were quite a few time jumps. This was necessary for the progression of the story but the book would have benefitted from a more consistent timeline. All in all these are pretty minor infractions. Where the book really shines is in the characters and their growth throughout the story.
Grace’s mother lives in Southbury, Florida where Grace grew up among the trees in their orange grove. Grace’s father, the Colonel, took Grace and moved to Portland when she was quite young. Growing up in an unfamiliar city with only her father and lovely stepmother, Sharone, Grace slowly built her own family- an eclectic group of colorful humans that love and support one another above all else. Her two roommates, Agnes, the girl with claws and sharp teeth, and Ximena, the Spanish goddess who is the glue that holds them together, lean on one another and pick each other up when they need it.
Grace works at the Tea House owned by the lovely Indian family that has adopted Grace as their own. Meera is the calm and supportive sister-figure, while Raj plays the role of big brother and protector. Baba Vihaan, their father, lovingly embraces Grace as if she is his own. Later, we meet Yuki, the gorgeous Japanese storyteller that Grace married in the desert along with her 3 roommates. Sani, the Native American MMA fighter, Dhorian, the dark-skinned resident doctor, and Fletcher, the silly and loving school teacher.
The diversity in both ethnicity and sexuality make this a decadent and vibrant story. Different cultures and beliefs are touched upon throughout the book in subtle ways. Biracialism is front and center; Grace is half black and half white. The struggles she faces in both her life and her career are heartbreaking and appalling. Intersectionality also plays a big role in this book. The Colonel is both black and disabled; he lost a portion of his leg in the war. Grace is not only biracial but suffers with mental illness as well. And she isn’t the only one. Agnes is thriving with Ximena and Grace but she’s still battling with her illnesses.
“I am here, says the darkness inside Grace. I am listening.”
Both Grace and Raj are buckling under the weight of their father’s expectations but in very different ways. While the Colonel is extremely strict and refuses to give an inch, Baba Vihaan is loving and warm but their culture demands the eldest son take over the family business when the patriarch dies whether Raj wants that life or not.
When Grace decides to take some time for herself after eleven grueling years of non-stop education and job rejections that are based on her race and sexuality rather than her above board and absolutely stellar resume, she does so against the wishes of her very strict father. For the first time in her life she is making a decision for herself rather than someone else. Little does she know that flying to NYC and getting to know her wife will become the catalyst she needs to finally face her fears, confront the people that have hurt her, and begin the arduous task of freeing herself from many self-inflicted burdens.
Grace is a brilliant astronomer, vastly knowledgable, and has the degrees and doctorate to prove it but when it comes to knowing her inner-self, the things she needs to make her happy, she is woefully inept. Following along on her journey of self-discovery is both heartbreaking and inspiring; I have a feeling her story will resonate with many people of color, especially women. These beautiful humans can read this story and feel seen. Whether the reader is black, biracial, Indian, Spanish, Japanese, Native American, disabled, Buddhist, lesbian, bi, gay, or straight- this story is a love letter to you. That being said I highly recommend reading an own-voices review; a review from someone who has shared the experiences of our main character. I suggest the following reviews for your perusal: Mina Reads & Ahtiya (BookinitWithAhtiya).
If you’re someone who loves diversity, strong female leads, found-family, or self-discovery in your stories than look no further. Morgan Rogers did a phenomenal job representing so many marginalized people. This is a novel that I read with google open on my phone to search all the new things I discovered while reading, whether it was about culture, food, or ethnicity. This is an absolute feast of a book!
The quotes used in this review were taken from an uncorrected proof and are subject to change upon publication.
About the Author
Morgan Rogers is a queer black millennial. She writes books for queer girls looking for their place in the world. She lives in Maryland and has a Shih Tzu named Nico and a cat named Grace that she would love to write into a story one day. Honey Girl is her debut novel.