My thanks go out to Sarah, representing publisher Bookouture, for saving me a place on this lovely ‘Books On Tour’ schedule.
I also need to thank the great NetGalley team, for always making life so easy when downloading review copies.
On this occasion the tour is being organised by Chick Lit Central
THE LILY GARDEN
Caroline remembered how her mother would head to the garden as the first signs of spring approached, rolling up her sleeves and planting wildflowers as the sun set. But there was a lot she didn’t know about her mother, and the family secrets hidden in her hometown that would change everything…
When Caroline left Lake Summers thirty years ago, she thought she’d never go back to the place where she lost her parents. But when she finds out that the town’s lily garden lovingly built by her mother is going to be destroyed, she knows she must return from Chicago to save it.
Welcomed by the warm smile of her mother’s best friend Maxine, and piles of pancakes at her cozy little restaurant in town, Caroline and her daughter Lee immediately begin their campaign to save the garden. And Caroline soon learns that she isn’t the only person invested in their plan: handsome historian Aaron is new to town but he sees how special the garden is too. As Caroline gets to know him, strolling along the sparkling lakeshore, she can’t imagine anywhere else she’d rather be.
But then Caroline learns a terrible secret about the day her mother died. If she continues fighting to save the garden, she may uncover more painful truths that will affect her whole family. But if she leaves now, she will have to give up a future with Aaron, and the beautiful town that has always been in her heart…
Barbara Josselsohn grew up on Long Island and lived for several years in her beloved New York City before moving to the northern suburbs.
She began her career as a business journalist and then turned her attention to her first love, fiction.
Her articles and essays now appear in a range of publications including: New York Magazine, Parents Magazine, the New York Times, Westchester Magazine, WorkingMother.com, and NextAvenue.com.
Barbara also teaches writing at the Sarah Lawrence Writing Institute and other venues, and is the founder and coordinator of the Scarsdale Library Writers Center, which supports and promotes local writers.
She and her husband have three adult children and an indefatigable shih-poo named Mosley.
Visit Barbara at her website
Follow Barbara on Twitter
Connect with Barbara on Facebook
“Writing this book gave me a new perspective about myself both as a mother and a daughter. And I hope that in reading it, you’ve discovered something new and important about your own family – whether it’s the family you were born into or one you chose to create for yourself”
It was on mornings like this that Caroline wished she were back in Lake Summers. Helping Maxine carry heavy oval plates piled with thick burgers or juicy steak kabobs out of the Grill’s busy kitchen. Ladling Garrett “Gull” Henderson’s famous chicken riggies, the rigatoni mixed with sweet peppers and smothered in his signature tomato cream sauce, into wide-mouthed pasta bowls. Giving people exactly what they wanted. Never having to disappoint.
So different from today, she thought as she eyed the resumes for the entry-level marketing position stacked on her sleek walnut desk. Today she’d be emailing countless copies of the company’s form letter, saying thanks but no thanks, and good luck with your search. Telling people they weren’t good enough. That there was no place for them here”
“The difference between colleagues and family is you get to choose your colleagues,” she said. “But I’m lucky my family is exactly who I’d choose to be with anyway. I’m so proud to be a Rantzen – and I know they are, too.”
“People are like plants, Caroline,” she’d said, steering the wheelbarrow heavy with bags of topsoil and gardening tools, her face shaded by her hat’s wide brim. “They can put down roots wherever they go, as long as they have love. You can’t see the roots because they’re hidden. But they’re strong and alive, and they’re what keep the flowers happy.”
‘You have to act like everything you do is forever, Caroline,’ she’d said one early-April day as she surveyed the winter-tossed landscape, then squatted and let handfuls of dirt flow between her fingers. ‘You have to believe that everything you care about will last and last. Because that’s the only way you can truly give your heart’
“She’d never felt what her parents had, being so in love with each other, and now she wondered which of the two of them had it worse: Aaron, because he’d once been in love and now was alone; or her, because she had never known that kind of love at all”
“You have to believe that everything you care about will last and last,” she’d told Caroline. “Because that’s the only way you can truly give your heart.”
“A river flows from Eden to water the garden. She remembered how Aaron had told her it was about separation and division, but she now thought maybe there was a whole other way to look at it. Because even though the river in the verse eventually splits into four, that didn’t mean the original river was gone. No, there’d be a little bit of the original river in all four subsequent rivers. So the verse wasn’t about separation at all. It was about continuation”
“A summer she’ll never forget”
Lovely cover art, for a beautiful story, wonderfully told!
An opening which sets the scene; leading to a storyline which is continually blossoming and evolving; and concluding with an ending which holds the promise of renewed hope going forwards, for those who dare to dream!
I read for four main reasons; enjoyment, entertainment, escapism and emotion. The Lily Garden definitely shines brightly in all of my ‘e’ ratings, despite women’s contemporary fiction being a genre I have only relatively recently reacquainted myself with, following a rather lengthy lapse in my engagement.
Part love story, part journey of self-actualization, and part unlocking and re-building of complex family dynamics; this multi-layered storyline is one which is immersive, indulgent and pure escapism. A lovely blended mix of storyline and characters make this the complete package.
When, in an effort to repair fractured relations with her daughter Lee, who she secretly wishes would re-consider her future education plans, Caroline decides to change their upcoming holiday itinerary and after what seems like a lifetimes lapse, to return to the small mountain town of her own early youth, in the hope that Lee can connect with her true roots, the consequences and reverberations are many, with the real potential to inflict more harm than healing.
Caroline hasn’t taken into account that the events and conversations she remembers from so long ago, would have been seen and heard through the rather rose-tinted perspective of a small child, complete with all the fairy-tale embellishments of a young and fertile imagination. Despite the warm welcome from those in the community who remember Caroline and had helped to raise her as one of their own, following the premature deaths of both her parents, long nurtured and deeply entrenched grudges against those she thought had betrayed her, inexorably bubble to the surface and threaten the long awaited reunion. Home truths however, will generally out, one way or another and once the emotional turmoil inflicted is overcome and the reality checks of the situation kick in, Caroline can at last begin to repair her shattered memories and to begin making new and much stronger connections for the future.
As well as opening the floodgates of emotion, the realization that much of what she had assumed about her family history hadn’t quite been as black and white as she had thought, also completely changes the perspective of Caroline’s relationship with her own daughter, as she soon realizes that Lee is a very well adjusted and mature young lady, who despite having felt the need to somewhat humour her mother, already has her future mapped out and a plan in place, without the coercion from her great-aunt, which Caroline had assumed was happening. When the honesty of their individual situations are brought to the surface, aired and dusted off, mother and daughter re-connect with an entirely new and much stronger bond than before, although Caroline realises that she has a very large portion of humble pie to eat, in front of her aunt Risa and uncle Rich, who it transpires, now she has had her heart and mind opened, have only ever had her best interests at heart and love both she and Lee equally, although they may not always be the best at outward displays of affection.
Talking about affection and exploring relationships – It seems as though Caroline herself might well be contemplating a permanent change in her personal emotional status, pace of life and choice of career, after meeting Aaron, a visiting college lecturer who is new to the area of Lake Summers. Their new and tentative beginnings as a couple, almost stall at the first hurdle though, when it transpires that Aaron has been keeping as many secrets and carrying around as much excess emotional baggage, as Caroline herself. However, when they both decide to face the future with a new found sense of purpose and maturity – well who knows what might happen in the fullness of time!
Written with total authority, consummate ease and complete confidence, by a born storyteller, this well structured, multi-genre, multi-layered story, is beautifully textured, at times desperately intense, yet has genuine heart and compassion, balanced with some real moments of ‘made me smile’ humour. Rich in detail, with some assured, observational and descriptive narrative, together with excellent conversational dialogue, the writing offers a tangible sense of time and place, making the dual location settings very much a part of the action.
An authentic and well developed cast of wonderfully defined and drawn characters, beautifully filled the pages with some larger than life actions, amusing anecdotes and complex dynamics. I found myself relating and investing in each and every one of them, despite, or maybe because of, their many raw and passionate vulnerabilities, which only added to their genuine and believable interactions, as they each explore the ever-evolving power, intimacy and responsibility of family, in all its many guises!
A complimentary download of this book for review purposes, was made available by Bookouture and supplied by NetGalley
Any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article which promotes this book or its author.
I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a book, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from reader to reader. However some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a well deserved 5 out of 5 stars!