The onset of sunshine and summer weather for me usually means sneaking in some good hammock time. With a good book, of course. Or taking a little road trip. With a good book, of course. Holing up inside while waiting for a big summer thunderstorm to pass. With a good book, of course.
This summer, however, I found that several books that I started either didn’t hold my interest right from the start, didn’t have characters I could root for as the story progressed or went to dark places I didn’t want to visit. I am a reader of varied genres. Throughout most of the year you can find me engrossed in suspense, fascinated by biographies, catching up on history and more. Fiction or non, I like a little of everything. Summer, however, is different. I have strict rules for summer soup and summer books. My soup must be of the chilled variety and my books must be light and easy. I like to take a mental vacation and read simply to be entertained. Farcical Brit-Lit works for me...think Shopaholic or Bridget Jones Diary. That being said, it must be well-written farcical Brit-lit, and actually, it doesn’t even have to be of the British variety...just well written, thank you! Too many times I’ve picked up a book that looked like fun but was silly, not clever. Or sappy, not sweet.
I’m here to announce that, like the drought plaguing California for what seemed like forever, my drought, for now, is over, too! I've just finished The Garden of Small Beginnings, by Abbi Waxman, and I’m happy to finally have a summer read I can recommend!
The premise (from the back cover): “Lillian Girvan has been a single mother for three years - ever since her husband died in a car accident. One mental breakdown and some random suicidal thoughts later, she’s just starting to get the hang of this widow thing. At least her textbook illustrating job has some perks - like the gardening class her boss signed her up for. Apparently, being the chosen illustrator for a series of boutique vegetable guides means getting your hands dirty, literally. After recruiting her two girls and insanely supportive sister to join her, Lillian shows up at the Los Angeles Botanical Garden feeling out of her element. But what she’ll soon discover - with the help of a patient instructor and a quirky group of gardeners, is that into every life a little sun must shine, whether you want it to or not...”.
I realize that a book that starts with a fatal car accident, scattered suicidal thoughts and a mental breakdown does NOT seem like light summer reading. The cover (a brightly colored floral abstract) and the reviews, however, compelled me to give it a read.
“This is my favorite kind of book - hilarious, sad, joyful. Beautifully written, fun, I dare you not to enjoy it.” -Julia Claiborne Johnson, author of Be Frank with Me
As a bonus to the heart and humor, as we follow Lillian’s journey and growth, both of the personal kind and related to her newly developing green thumb, Waxman starts each chapter with instructions on properly preparing a garden bed or planting various vegetables. They are actually valid, helpful instructions with a bit of humor interjected. Take for instance this tip for growing pumpkins: “If your first flowers aren’t forming fruits, that’s normal. Both male and female blossoms need to open, get to know one another, maybe hang out and watch a movie and just, you know, chill.”
Waxman also addresses the issue of beauty, with some sharp commentary and some heartfelt warning. The actress, Meg Ryan really takes a hit!
This book is about surviving, and doing more than moving on. It’s about taking chances and living again. It’s about growth when you’re stuck, flourishing when you’d rather wither. Keeping your eyes (and your heart) open to those around you and really paying attention to what they’re saying, verbally or otherwise.
The quote by Anais Nis at the start of the book sums it up beautifully...”There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk to let it blossom.”
I hope you’ll give “The Garden of Small Beginnings” a try.