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Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening : How I Learned the Unexpected Joy of a Green Thumb and an Open Heart
by Carol Wall

Overview - "In this profoundly moving memoir, Owita teaches Wall how to find grace amid heartbreak and to accept that beauty exists because it is fleeting--as in her garden, as in life." --"People," 4 stars
"A perfect spring awakening." --"Good Housekeeping"
A true story of a unique friendship between two people who had nothing--and ultimately everything--in common.
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More About Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening by Carol Wall
 
 
 
Overview
"In this profoundly moving memoir, Owita teaches Wall how to find grace amid heartbreak and to accept that beauty exists because it is fleeting--as in her garden, as in life." --"People," 4 stars
"A perfect spring awakening." --"Good Housekeeping"
A true story of a unique friendship between two people who had nothing--and ultimately everything--in common.
Carol Wall, a white woman living in a lily-white neighborhood in Middle America, was at a crossroads in her life. Her children were grown; she had successfully overcome illness; her beloved parents were getting older. One day she notices a dark-skinned African man tending her neighbor's yard. His name is Giles Owita. He bags groceries at the supermarket. He comes from Kenya. And he's very good at gardening.
Before long Giles is transforming not only Carol's yard, but her life. Though they are seemingly quite different, a caring bond grows between them. But they both hold long-buried secrets that, when revealed, will cement their friendship forever.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780399157981
  • ISBN-10: 0399157980
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons a Member of Penguin Group
  • Publish Date: March 2014
  • Page Count: 294
  • Reading Level: Ages 18-UP


Related Categories

Books > Biography & Autobiography > Personal Memoirs
Books > Gardening > General

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2013-12-09
  • Reviewer: Staff

In this moving memoir chronicling the many lasting rewards garnered from an unexpected friendship, writer Wall enlists a neighbor’s gardener, a man from Kenya, to help her maintain her garden. What begins as a purely professional relationship, with Wall hoping to learn more about gardening, blossoms into an intimate friendship. Wall, a breast cancer patient, admits that, before she met Giles Owita, her outlook on life was less than sunny. Always an introvert and prone to social gaffes, Wall was dealing at the time with her parent’s decline. Slowly, over three years, Owita, a quiet and unassuming man, transforms Wall’s unkempt lawn into a living masterpiece, showing Wall the beauty inherent in everyday life. While transmitting the knowledge for growing a bountiful garden, Owita passes along how one might live a satisfying life. “Each time I walked away from Giles, I felt either enlightened by his brilliance or unburdened of some of my worries and sadness.” Wall eventually learns of the personal, family and health issues endured by her friend, marveling at his grace and strength. This tender narrative gently probes the complicated terrain of American race relations, dealing with serious illness and facing the death of loved ones. Agent: Marly Rusoff, Marly Rusoff Literary. (Mar.)

 
BookPage Reviews

Cultivating an unusual friendship

At first, Carol Wall’s memoir, Mr. Owita’s Guide to Gardening, sounds like a book you might have read before: An unlikely friendship develops between two people who appear to have nothing in common. Giles Owita is an immigrant from Kenya who works part-time as a gardener. Wall is a high school English teacher and writer whose work has graced the pages of magazines like Southern Living. But things are not as they seem. In time, Wall will regard Owita as the greatest professor she has ever had. And you will be convinced she is right.

Their relationship begins predictably. Wall asks Owita to help her reclaim her lawn, an eyesore that is becoming the worst looking yard on the block. He helps her plant a few beds, tend to the grass and (memorably) prune a tree. But soon the relationship veers off script. We see some of the depth that is to come in a letter Owita sends to Wall shortly after viewing her lawn. “I took the liberty of stopping by your compound today, even though your vehicle was not in the driveway. . . . You have a lovely yard. Of particular beauty are the azaleas.” His eloquence impresses the English teacher in Wall, who muses, “Compound. It sounded elegant. Exotic.” It is the beginning of a rich conversation.

Despite their differences in race and background, both Owita and Wall carry family and health burdens that will be lightened by sharing them. Through their friendship, both truly help each other—in real tangible ways that change each other and their community.

I couldn’t put this book down. I found myself liking the principal characters from the opening pages, and my affection for them never wavered. If you enjoy inspirational memoirs or gardening books (or both), this moving account of a life-changing friendship is for you.

 

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our Q&A with Carol Wall for Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening.

 
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