Friday, August 18, 2017

Book Review: The Garden of Small Beginnings

I have the blackest thumb in the history of mankind. Okay. Well, that's probably not true, but I do tend to kill all green things that I attempt to grow. Fact. Just finished off a plant that my oldest son's ex-girlfriend gave to him awhile back. Somehow with the camps and schedule craziness, I forgot to water it adequately and it is now a shriveled mess destined for the trash heap. But, I would like to nurture the skill. Indeed, my husband has plans for a garden (how that will work with the large critter population he attracts with his constant bird feeding, I'm not sure). Thus, this title and premise jumped out at me in the recent acquisition shelves of my library.

Lilian Girvan is still reeling from the recent death of her beloved husband when her textbook illustration job sends her out to a gardening class to prepare her for an assignment. She brings along her sister, Rachel (instrumental in helping Lili over the hump of mental breakdown), and her two young daughters, Clare and Annabel. There, the three meet a host of interesting characters who begin to nurture Lili and woo her out into the world again through the intervention of gardening.

I loved the brief snippets before each chapter, instructing how to grow various vegetables and herbs. These passages were brief enough not to interrupt the flow of the narrative, yet insightful enough to be helpful. Although I would probably benefit from copying out those particular pages, I figured my husband has sufficient books and I'd be better off following his lead.

Word of warning: A great deal of the humor in this book centers around sexual innuendos and double entendres. Morally speaking, the characters approach sexuality with very loose standards (Rachel seems to bed any man she holds the slightest interest in and is more hesitant when she feels there might be more significant relationship - this was rather perplexing to me, from my perspective). This isn't exactly a book I feel good about recommending to my Christian friends, since the worldview is quite different.

Moreover, it felt like the story ambled along without really getting anywhere. I suppose at the end of the book, Lili does finally get to the place where she is ready to seek out her own happiness, but the journey to that point seemed winding and, at times, unsatisfying. While I never really fell in love with the characters, I did enjoy thinking about and vicariously experiencing the grief process. It kept me reading, but more for the gardening elements than for the story line or humor.

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