So sorry for the technical difficulties, mersquad coven. Things were a little off kilter for me today but I’m here and I’m happy and excited!
In this heartwarming and feel-good novel filled with echoes of Dorothea Benton Frank, Debbie Macomber and Elizabeth Berg, two women separated by a generation but equally scarred by war find hope, meaning – and each other – through a garden of heirloom flowers.
Iris Maynard lost her husband in World War II, her daughter to loneliness and, finally, her reason to live. Walled off from the world for decades behind a towering fence surrounding her home and gardens, the former botanist has built a new family…of flowers. Iris propagates her own daylilies and roses while tending to an heirloom garden filled with starts – and memories – of her own mother, grandmother, husband and daughter.
When Abby Peterson moves to Grand Haven, Michigan, with her family – a husband traumatized during his service in the Iraq War and a young daughter searching for stability – they find themselves next door to Iris, and are slowly drawn into her reclusive neighbour’s life where, united by loss and a love of flowers, Iris and Abby slowly unearth their secrets to each other. Eventually, the two teach one another that the earth grounds us all, gardens are a grand healer, and as flowers bloom so do our hopes and dreams.
Viola Shipman is the pen name for Wade Rouse, a popular, award-winning memoirist. Rouse chose his grandmother’s name, Viola Shipman, to honor the woman whose heirlooms and family stories inspire his writing. Rouse is the author of The Summer Cottage, as well as The Charm Bracelet and The Hope Chest which have been translated into more than a dozen languages and become international bestsellers. He lives in Saugatuck, Michigan and Palm Springs, California, and has written for People, Coastal Living, Good Housekeeping, and Taste of Home, along with other publications, and is a contributor to All Things Considered.
Disclaimer: I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to Harlequin Trade Publishing, Netgalley and Graydon Books for this free copy. All quotes in this review are taken from the Advanced Reader Copy and may change in final publication.
Graydon Books has been really killing the game for me with these historical fiction novels lately and I’m so glad that there’s another one that I can add to my list of books that I enjoyed. I also really like the tribute of the pen name that Rouse chose for his novels, to honor his grandmother. I thought that was a sweet touch.
This book really made me feel emotional because of how Iris felt so alone with her family having already left this Earth before her. I think about my own grandma who I spoke with yesterday and there are times where she tells me something similar to what Iris was thinking, just not wanting to be around anymore, and it breaks my heart. That feeling of not having any family to live for anymore, especially when they aren’t out of your life by choice, can be really hard to go through alone. So Iris really just hit home for me, and my heart hurt for her.
Another reason why I was able to feel for Iris even more was because of her love of flowers and tending to her garden in her home. That’s exactly what brings my grandma joy lately too, and I thought it was really cool that both of them love lilies and roses. I don’t know if those are popular flowers or something, but seeing that similarity just really made me think of my grandma even more. It made me wish that both Iris and my grandma weren’t so alone right now.
I feel like the relationship that ended up blossoming between Iris and Abby was absolutely beautiful, and these two women being able to relate on some aspect on both their loves and their hardships was really great to see. I feel like the overall feeling that I got after reading this book was one of hope, and to me it showed that sometimes you need another person that has an idea of what you are going through to help you take the time to heal. It’s not an easy process, but one that will eventually help you find some joy again in your life. It was a beautiful novel.