Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Joy For Beginners

Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermiester is my entry for this month's garden book review hosted by Roses and Other Gardening Joys. I feel a bit cheeky submitting this one as I'm really stretching the definition of garden book.

I usually like my reading material to have a bit of depth to it but with travel ahead deliberately chose something lighter. The book is broken up into roughly six sections, one for each woman in the story. To my surprise and delight one section was about the healing power of a garden.

"What would it be like to design a garden to take care of someone?"  asks Hadley.

Hadley is a young woman frozen in grief following the death of her husband in a car accident. She retreats to a tiny house  hidden behind a neglected garden.

""...if you truly understood....that humans were made of bones and blood that broke and sprayed with the slightest provocation....in street curbs, and dangling tree limbs, bicycles and pencils-well, you would fly for the first nest in a tree, run flat out for the first burrow you saw."

"...loneliness...might not track her down the narrow bark covered path, might get lost among the unruly green, the whispered distraction of sweet white scents."

Mud Maid sculpture by Susan Hill, Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall
Eventually a child comes into the garden and then a woman in great need. When the woman is recovered she offers Hadley a gift but she must accept it before she knows what it is. The gift is a task and the task is to restore the garden.

It takes her months to begin but with the encouragement of the other women, who have also been given gifts particular to them, she begins.

The writing is lyrical, wise and sensitive. Restoring a garden is demanding. The writer slows the pace to mimic the effort allowing the reader to share the surprise and joy of each discovery. A woman has loved this garden before and what remains is passed from one to another.

A knight in shining armour wielding a magical trowel does not sweep Hadley off her feet. What does happen is much more realistic and satisfying.

For information on the creator of the Mud Maid click here 

14 comments:

  1. This sounds like a perfect winter read in anticipation of spring gardening. Thanks for the suggestion. Bonnie

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    1. Winter reading is so restorative.

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  2. Hello Susan:
    'Joy for Beginners' is a book which we have not come across until now and, from all which you say here, it sounds to be a most absorbing and thought provoking story.

    Whilst we have never really considered the garden in terms of healing qualities, we would certainly subscribe to the view that to garden can be, and often is, the most therapeutic of occupations.

    You may possibly know of Susan Hill's 'In the Springtime of the Year' which we found both delightful and very moving.

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    1. Joy for Beginners is a much lighter read than Susan Hill's work but I think it shares some of the same insights on grief. Grief has many facets and the pattern of sudden loss is described well in both books.

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  3. Yes, thanks for the review! I am always on the lookout for a good book, and this one sounds interesting. And it is at my library! : )

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    1. Hooray for libraries. Sometimes I go in with absolutely no plan as to what I want to read and more often than not I find something that pleases me.

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  4. How lovely to read about a gardening book which isn't quite about gardening. Thank you for reviewing this book - I am looking forward to reading it!

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    1. Many people say their interest in gardening was stimulated by a childhood book, The Secret Garden being notable. I'm always on the lookout for works of fiction where the garden has a significant role or at least a good description of one.

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  5. What a delightful sounding book... I'll track this down and look forward to reading it.

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    1. Do you have a British book you could recommend?

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  6. Thanks so much for being a bit "cheeky" and reviewing this book! :) It sounds like the perfect book for me to read. I have found my garden to be quite healing, and I think I would enjoy the message of this book. Thanks so much for joining in.

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    1. The books in the review are always so interesting. My Xmas wish list is almost entirely from it.

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  7. This sounds like a beautiful book. Reading quiet books before I go to sleep really helps me put the day behind me. Thanks for the review.

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  8. Hi Susan, I'm pleased you're being lateral in your choice of 'gardening' book. The story sounds beautifully written, and a bit mystical. The Mud Maid sculpture is extraordinary, I love it and find it a bit creepy.

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