A smooth literary concoction of smart thrills and chills.
Sep 11, 2001
A multi-layered, rousing novel of suspense that fuses psychological terror and violence with childhood innocence, The Absence of Nectar is a novel that is unified by different literary genres that forms a reading experience that is not simply unique, but also intellectually edifying, entertaining and occasionally corrosively comical. The protagonists - Alice and Boone Fendar - could be an updated Texan verson of Jem and Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. But their battle is not with the evils of racism and those who are benighted by unbridled hate; it is against an evil of equil horror: Simon Jester, a psychopathic stepfather whose rancorous and injurious deeds knows no bounds. It is the summer, a time of carefree, languorous innocence, a time for swimming, softball, drinking homemade lemonade to gobs of other summer fun - or so one would believe. As life is good for some, it is less so for others, the others being Alice and Boone. The crack-up of their family darts forth when their father abandons them, leaving Meg (the mother) to fend for herself as a beekeeper. But for someone who has consistently been dependent on the economic progression of the husband - the primary bread earner (in this case) - the task of becoming 'career-oriented' or evolving into a 'learned' woman of business, is something less than easy. An emotional struggle ensues within Meg - a battle against depression and all the mental infirmities that commonly strike women who are slowly stripped away of not only their identity and confidence, but most importantly, their perceptions of themselves, their self-worth. She takes drastic suicidal actions to prevent the obvious from occurring. The act fails, but it invokes enough of a scare to keep the family thinly glued together. But it does not last. Hence, things become unhinged, a role inversion happens: Meg becomes vulnerable and dependant while the kids become the caretakers. In order to regain a degree of family normalcy, the kids take their mother to Hollow Cove on Lake Shine, and while there, Meg nearly drowns but is later saved by a stranger who eventually becomes husband #2. As Meg is blind sighted by all that she has endured, she fails to see what is most obvious to her children: Alice, keen in insight, rebellious in manner and Boone, lovingly innocent and somewhat odd, for he has a deep attraction to Persely Snow, a famous teenage murderess with a liking for poisons. The obvious is that Simon Jester has a very questionable past, the death of his wife and 'son.' The latter is a jaw dropping surprise. The Absence of Nectar is quirky, because it encompasses crime, coming-of-age cuteness and hard, trim prose. To relegate it as traditional fiction would be innaccurate, for it is mystery, literature, young adult and contemporary - all nicely knitted together - a coming-of-age novel that is not overly imbued with oozing saccharine hyperbole. Fans of Hepinstall's earlier novel, The House of Gentle Men, will not be disappointed with The Absence of Nectar.
A multi-layered, rousing novel of suspense that fuses psychological terror and violence with childhood innocence, The Absence of Nectar is a novel that is unified by different literary genres that forms a reading experience that is not simply unique, but also intellectually edifying, entertaining and occasionally corrosively comical. The protagonists - Alice and Boone Fendar - could be an updated Texan verson of Jem and Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. But their battle is not with the evils … more
...until I turned the last page, once I'd begun this extraordinarily powerful tale of innocence and evil. When stepchildren Alice and Boone try to warn their mother of her new husband's evil intentions, she refuses the knowledge, her desire for happiness so overwhelming. Their eyes beg her to see what she will not see, and the intransigent Meg won't hear ill of Simon Jester. Until one night, she whispers to her children, "Run". Once an average, happy family, they are broken … more
Its nice to read novels by up and comming novelists. This one certainly is quite captivating. Kathy Hepinstall surely knows how to interweave many twists and turns in the story. Its interesting how Boone and Persley influence each other. The description of Simon Jetser's manipulating ways surely sets the tone throughout the book. Meg surely has her weaknesses as a person but definitely surprises the reader in the end. A good account on how children can be trapped in a bad situation. This story certainly … more
This is a wonderful, well-written book, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. There is a lot of poetry in the language, and the story flows well from beginning to end. The narrator, even though she is a young girl, never steps out of character, and the action and actions of everyone involved are completely believeable. This book was one I enjoyed so much, that I gave it to my wife and 23 year old daughter to read. Both of them had the same reaction to it that I did, so what you have here may be one … more
Kathy Hepinstall's first novel "The House of Gentle Men" was an astonishingly fine first novel and sent up a red flag to those of us who are committed to reading first works. That book is a genuinely original work and the inevitable question "Can she keep this quality of writing going?" was posed. Now comes "The Absence of Nectar" and all hints of an important writer promised in "Gentle Men" have been fulfilled. Hepinstall KNOWS how to tell a story, but more than that - she knows how … more
First-person narrator Alice is a precocious eleven-year-old growing up in rural East Texas with one wish on her mind: Get rid of Simon Jester. Simon is the man who saved her mother from drowning. Simon is her mother's hero, her savior-and her new husband. He's an enigmatic man whose own family, he says, mysteriously drowned.
But soon it becomes apparent that Simon's family did not drown. Alice and her brother become convinced that Simon intends to poison them. Their mother, Meg, tells her children that they have wild imaginations. Until she comes to kiss them one night, and instead of her usual endearments, whispers a single word: Run.
The Absence of Nectar is a finely wrought and suspenseful coming-of-age novel that confirms the promise of Hepinstall's highly praised debut, The House of Gentle Men.