THE GARDEN OF SMALL BEGINNINGS
By: Abbi Waxman
Published: May 2, 2017
Publisher: Berkley Books
You would think that a novel about a woman recently widowed by her much-too-young husband’s horrific accident and her sudden entrance into the world of single motherhood would be too sad to read. I may have put this one aside except for the vivid colors on the cover drawing me in. This book couldn’t be too depressing with a cover like that, so I gave it a shot. I was pleasantly surprised by the light humor the author gave to the story, convincing the reader that even in our darkest moments we can find something to laugh about.
Lillian is a book illustrator, a single mom to two delightful daughters, a sister, and a daughter to a painfully critical mother. She is just beginning to get the hang of living life without her husband with the help of her sister who spends many evenings enjoying Lilian’s cooking and playing with her nieces. Lilian’s employer offers her the opportunity to illustrate a vegetable encyclopedia and decides it would be good for her to take a gardening class to get up-close and personal with the vegetables she will be drawing. Lilian, her sister, and the two girls all attend the weekend classes and find joy in new friendships, delicious food, and maybe a new future full of surprises.
Lilian’s sense of humor is light and laughable. Her descriptions of drawing whale penises or her snarky thoughts about the hunky garden instructors will keep the reader laughing and wanting more. Waxman created funny and likable characters (even the overbearing mother) and you want each of them to find their way in the story. Waxman will have you laughing in one chapter and thinking deeply in the next with bits of wisdom mixed with emotion.
Yes there is a bit of romance to this story, but it is handled maturely and not overdone with details that will cause you to cringe or skip paragraphs. Lilian shares true feelings as her heart begins to reopen and her fear and trepidation about the future is real. This quote from Anais Nin fit so perfectly with Lilian and her feelings, “There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful that the risk it took to blossom.” Lilian has to decide if the risk is worth taking to feel joy once again.
Another fun feature that I enjoyed in the book was that each chapter started with a vegetable. There would be an illustration, much like what I expect Lilian would draw, and an explanation on how to grow that particular vegetable in your garden. Of course, each description has a bit of humor included like not planting strawberries where you have recently planted tomatoes, peppers, or eggplant “because it freaks them out” or radishes need lots of sun and if they don’t get it, you’ll have to go out and buy them and “lie about your horticultural prowess”.
The book comes with discussion questions at the end and would make for an enjoyable book club choice. Its lightheartedness is refreshing to read even amidst the grief that permeates their lives.
|Abbi Waxman – source|
Abbi Waxman is a chocolate-loving, dog-loving woman, who lives in Los Angeles and lies down as much as possible. She worked in advertising for many years, which is how she learned to write fiction. She has three daughters, three dogs, three cats, and one very patient husband. THE GARDEN OF SMALL BEGINNINGS is her first novel. For more on Waxman, visit her website, HERE.
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