By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis
Category: Paranormal Fiction
Author: Mary Rickert
Format: Trade Paperback, 296 pages
Pub Date: May 15, 2014
Summary from Publisher:
Nan keeps her secrets deep, not knowing how the truth would reveal a magic all its own Bay Singer has bigger secrets than most. She doesn’t know about them, though. Her mother, Nan, has made sure of that. But one phone call from the sheriff makes Nan realize that the past is catching up. Nan decides that she has to make things right, and invites over the two estranged friends who know the truth. Ruthie and Mavis arrive in a whirlwind of painful memories, offering Nan little hope of protecting Bay. But even the most ruined garden is resilient, and their curious reunion has powerful effects that none of them could imagine, least of all Bay.
– From Chapters-Indigo website
Book Review by Zara
from The Bibliotaphe Closet:
The Memory Garden by Mary Rickert is a pensive and lyrical narrative about the trepidation and surprise of aging, its physical discomfort and pain, its impending inevitability. It’s also a story about the vitality and trust of a friendship between women that’s depth and longevity prove to be unchanged regardless of how much time has passed. It’s also a story of the weight of guilt, its burden, and the poison of secrecy and its old haunts that can pollute one’s life with sadness, fear, regret. Lastly, it is a story of meaning—of flowers and of love.
The narrative in The Memory Garden is as quietly lush and punctuated with flare and oddity as its descriptive garden filled with orphaned shoes and wild flowers.
It’s that of Nan, her worries and complaints of aging, her resignation to its unexpectancy, but its harsh inevitability.
And it’s that of Bay, the restless longing and rebellion of youth, its innocence and confusion, its desire for identity and truth.
The result is an intimate discourse on the mother-daughter relationship, its joy and weariness, its gaps not only in age, but in the mystery of the unknown. And it is at its heart, a window to the uniqueness and flair in which the two live, as both outcasts in their small town, victims of rumour and discrimination.
The setting is as lush and creative as it is a hub for an underlining darkness and eeriness from its detailed and bright descriptions of foliage and hortivulture to its elusive recollections of a dark past and fluctuating visions.
The characters, too, are uniquely vivid and endearing from Nan, whose love and knowledge of horticulture only emphasize her quirkiness, which can be seen through her shoe garden and her creative traditions such as lighting candles outside and refraining from blowing them out on birthdays or climbing through a window annually on Christmas to be greeted by freshly wrapped and dry pyjamas.
To Mavis, whose clinking, gold bracelets are synonymous with her dramatic entrances, her raspy, deep voice, which is able to command the attention of those she speaks to, her lifelong dream to visit Africa, and her sharp restraint, and emotional coolness.
And Ruthie, whose emotional gregariousness hinders her from controlling what she discloses to others, while having a natural giftedness in the kitchen when it comes to cooking a feast or baking delectable sweets—especially her favourite confection—chocolate cake.
Howard, whose small bruise on the cheek is but, a physical mark of his true internal bruising from being ostracized by his family at the news of his sexual orientation.
Stella, a spitting image of her grand-aunt, Eve, in her youth, surprises the women with a coincidental, yet intrusive visit to their reunion in the hopes of gaining more information about her grand-aunt’s life and death.
Thalia, Bay’s best and only friend, is a loyal confidante and curious, yet accepting outsider who is privileged to witness the rumoured mysteriousness of Bay’s family.
And Bay, whose growing yearning for adulthood and answers to her birthright compel her to be torn between the love she feels and has for her adoptive and “strange” mother to wanting to be free from the cruelty that surrounds being ridiculed and ostracized for that very uniqueness.
And Eve, whose stunted innocence carries with it a dark and heavy secret, one that unfurls their childhood into panic, causing in itself helpless decisions made by the inexperience youth.
And lastly, Grace Winter, whose circle of friends and radical independence, sparks curiosity that later leads to vehemence and discriminative crime.
Together these characters are largely revealed through their dialogue, their hardships, and fears as lethal as their self-imposed guilt, and as strong as the bond of their friendship that even after a 60-year absence, has not disappeared.
The plot, while not necessarily active, is simple, yet filled with haunting memory and storytelling as fragrant as the wild garden and forest behind Nan and Bay’s home. It is filled with surprises that take in its gradual pace as long as it does for foliage to bloom, but worth like a beautiful garden, an appreciative result.
The language, though not overly literary, is sound enough to be interesting, pacing the story by the reader’s curiosity for answers and resolution, entertaining by the overall likeability of its characters.
It is as its title discloses. a Memory Garden, delicately tended to with dedication and love.
Characters: 3.5 stars
Plot: 3.5 stars
Language/Narrative: 3.5 stars
Dialogue: 3.5 stars
Pacing: 3.5 stars
Cover Design: 3.5 stars
A special thanks to Sourcebooks for including me in the Pre-Publication Book Blog Tour and for providing me with a copy of The Memory Garden in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author:
Before earning her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts, Mary Rickert worked as a kindergarten teacher, coffee shop barista, balloon vendor at Disneyland, and in the personnel department at Sequoia National Park, where she spent her free time hiking the wilderness. She now lives in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, a small city of candy shops and beautiful gardens. This is her first novel. There are, of course, mysterious gaps in this account of her life, and that is where the truly interesting stuff happened.
– From inside bio in novel, The Memory Garden
Connect with Mary Rickert on her official website.
Find more information on Mary Rickert on Wikipedia.
Be a fan of Mary Rickert on Goodreads.
Be sure to visit the other blogs that are participating in the Pre-Publication Book Blog Tour for The Memory Garden:
What do you think is most powerful about the bond between women in friendship?
What do you think is the best and worst thing about aging?
Do you believe in magic? In ghosts? In witches?
Do you believe in the meaning of flowers and what they represent? What is your favourite flower and why?