Alex's father dies just as she and her husband buy a nondescript house set atop an acre of wilderness that extends into a natural gorge in the middle of the city. Read more...
Alex's father dies just as she and her husband buy a nondescript house set atop an acre of wilderness that extends into a natural gorge in the middle of the city. Choked with weeds and crumbling antique structures, the abandoned garden turned wild jungle stirs cherished memories of Alex's childhood: when her home life became unbearable, she would escape to the forest. In her new home, Alex can feel the power of the majestic trees that nurtured her in her youth.
She begins to beat back the bushes to unveil the garden's mysteries. At the same time, her mother has a stroke and develops dementia and Alex discovers an envelope of yellowed documents while sorting through her father's junk pile. The papers hold clues to her Ukrainian-born parents' mysterious past. She reluctantly musters the courage to uncover their secrets, while discovering the plants hidden in the garden -- from primroses and maple syrup-producing sugar maples to her mother's favorite, lily of the valley. As every passionate gardener knows, to spend time with the soil is the opposite of escapism -- it is to embrace our own circle of life and hold it close.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-03-28
- Reviewer: Staff
Blogger and gardener Risen’s debut memoir is based on a “collection of reminiscences” from a 10-year period. After the death of her father, an emotionally distant man from the Ukraine, the author and her husband purchase a ranch-style house and an acre of land surprisingly situated in downtown Toronto. The garden is neglected, but Risen, steeped in “love of nature and living things,” sees the possibilities. Having spent her childhood playing in a ravine near her home in Alberta, she’s eager to restore the abandoned property, once part of a larger estate. The land is rife with unexpected delights: a huge, decaying pagoda, underground aquifers, a pond, koi, deer, and all manner of vegetation. She soon begins making maple syrup, cattail fried rice, and bleeding heart valentines (recipes, instructions, and foraging guidelines included). As the restoration painstakingly progresses, Risen simultaneously delves into her past, exploring why her immigrant parents never revealed details of their family history. She also shares her love of the land with her ailing mother and with her husband and young son (who grows from toddler to techie teen in the course of the decade’s work). As she restores the property and heals her long-troubled soul, Risen paints a vivid and exquisite portrait of nature and its profound significance. (July)