The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman
I really enjoyed this hilariously funny book.
When the publishing house 34-year-old Lillian works for wants her to illustrate a book on gardening, they send her to a course on how to garden. Her sister, Rachel, and her two daughters join her. There, they meet a good-looking teacher named Edward and a cast of characters that defy initial stereotypes.
I loved the relationship between Lillian and Rachel. They fight occasionally, but mostly they support each other in a way that’s nice to see. The seven-year-old daughter Annabel and the five-year-old Clare are the most adorable characters I’ve read in fiction in a long time.
Though Lillian lost her husband to a car accident almost four years ago, her sister, her daughter, and the cast of characters from her gardening class help Lillian move forward from the grief. The humor keeps the book from being depressing or maudlin.
The Distance Home by Orly Konig-Lopez
Emma takes a week off from her high-powered job in PR in Chicago to return to Maryland and take care of her father’s things after his death in a car accident. In addition to trying to mend the wounds of dealing with a depressed mother who died when Emma was young—Emma’s father told her that her mother had heart problems and ultimately died of a heart attack—she’s also trying to sort out her feelings for a father who was emotionally absent from her life.
When Emma was eight years old, they moved to this rural area and she discovered Jilli, her neighbor, who was nine at the time, and Jilli’s grandparents, who raised Jilli and ran a horse ranch that gave lessons to kids who wanted to compete and therapeutic services for soldiers with PTSD, kids with behavioral or emotional problems, and folks with a variety of disabilities.
Though for years they were best friends, Emma and Jilli have been estranged since an accident when they were sixteen. After the accident, Emma’s dad shipped her off to boarding school and the lies about that day have haunted her ever since.
Emma finds that though she’d stayed away from horses since the accident, returning to them is good for the soul, even to someone who rode them for ribbons end glory once upon a time. Fixing things with Jilli, Jilli’s grandparents, and her father’s ghost, is not as easy to do as getting back on a horse.
The novel is about finding oneself by looking at the past and reimaging one’s future. I got lost in the story and in the way animals can be great emotional support in difficult times. The characters—including the animals—were well drawn, with complex, believable traits.
Thanks to NetGalley and Forge Books for the opportunity to review this book.