Gloria Mallette's The Honey Well starts off strong
and fast and never loses momentum. The opening passages set the stage for drama, drama, and more drama. Queen Ester is a no-nonsense
madam who has only a love affair with the almighty dollar; so much so that she first pimped her sixteen-year-old daughter,
Arnell, to their landlord to cover the rent.
Fast forward fifteen years, and Ester has moved up to Brooklyn, runs
a successful brothel, and still manipulates Arnell to perform sexual favors for businessmen. It matters little that
Arnell's fiancée is a well-known city council member and son of a prominent minister in their community. Throughout the novel
Arnell tries to break the leash that Ester has placed on her. She has managed to complete a college education, purchase
her own home, and meet a nice guy despite Ester's protests and attempts at sabotage.
The heart of the novel is the love/hate relationship that Arnell has
with the controlling, selfish Ester; but the line is crossed when Ester backs Arnell into a corner by threatening to tell
Arnell's fiancé about her past as a prostitute. However, the plot twists and turns -- things quickly turn upside down.
Although The Honey Well's
subject matter may not be to every reader's liking, I do not think that anyone would disagree that The Honey Well is filled with unforgettable characters like Big Walt, the brothel enforcer; Melvina, the
nosey brothel cook; Tony, Ester's Italian mob boss boyfriend; Trena, the misguided teenager who wants to grow up too soon,
and others. The one-liners that flow from Queen Ester are often laugh-out-loud funny, and the dialogue is quick and
engaging. There is a recurring theme and a moral to the story buried within the drama however, the reader must stay
with Arnell as she comes to terms with herself and mother. An enjoyable read!
The Nubian Circle Book Club rating for The Honey Well is 4 stars out of 5 stars.