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The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi…
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The Garden of Small Beginnings

by Abbi Waxman

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2443074,374 (3.71)8
"Not since Good Grief has a book about a young widow been so poignant, funny, original, and utterly believable. A compelling debut novel about loss. Give grief a chance. Lilian Girvan has been a single mother for three years--ever since her husband died in a car accident. One mental breakdown and some random suicidal thoughts later, she's just starting to get the hang of this widow thing. She can now get her two girls to school, show up to work, and watch TV like a pro. The only problem is she's becoming overwhelmed with being underwhelmed. At least her textbook illustrating job has some perks--like actually being called upon to draw whale genitalia. Oh, and there's that vegetable-gardening class her boss signed her up for. Apparently being the chosen illustrator for a series of boutique vegetable guides means getting your hands dirty, literally. Wallowing around in compost on a Saturday morning can't be much worse than wallowing around in pajamas and self-pity. After recruiting her kids and insanely supportive sister to join her, Lilian shows up at the Los Angeles Botanical Garden feeling out of her element. But what she'll soon discover--with the help of a patient instructor and a quirky group of gardeners--is that into every life a little sun must shine, whether you want it to or not. "Young widow Lilian Girvan can't see the garden for the weeds... It's been three years since her husband was killed in a car accident and Lilian is still getting used to being sane--after that one early breakdown. She's happy just being able to get her two girls to school every morning, keep her illustrating job, and catch up on her favorite TV shows with her sister. She's not exactly in a rut; she's just letting the grass grow under her feet. But then Lilian's boss asks her to illustrate a vegetable encyclopedia and signs her up for a vegetable-gardening class. Lilian reluctantly agrees and recruits her kids and sister to join her for some drama-free Saturday mornings, because what could be more relaxing than gardening? Nothing...except that this class is filled with people who like to dig a little deeper than the surface, and an instructor who makes Lillian want to bloom for the first time in years. With her fellow newbie gardeners, Lilian learns what it takes to nurture plants--and friendships. Digging in the dirt, with worms and all, teaches Lilian that sometimes you have to let nature take its course, be it in gardening, in life, or in love.."--… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
Having recently and thoroughly enjoyed The Bookish Life of Nina Hill *and* having received lovely mail from the author, I didn't hesitate to read Waxman's debut. Who knew that a story about a grieving young widow and her family could be so funny?! I especially enjoyed Lillian's relationships with her sister and her gardening teacher, as well as the antics of her 7- and 5-year-old daughters . Highly recommend. ( )
  joyblue | Sep 5, 2019 |
The Garden of Small Beginnings is one of my favorite books so far this year. Lili finds herself a widow in a life rut four years after the trauma occurs when suddenly change is thrown at her from every direction. A work required gardening class begins gently shifting her perspective and altering her path from surviving to thriving.
Waxman crafts wonderfully complex characters on an unexpected journey. The realistic kid characters are some of my favorites, because they’re just so authentic- from cute to lethal in half a second! Lili’s mothering struggles are realistically portrayed, which is incredibly refreshing. Additional prior family drama adds to the pressure. This cast of likeable characters made the book impossible to put down, and is one of the reasons I’m sad it’s over. The other reason is the witty and quirky voice of the protagonist narrator. She is incredibly funny, insightful, irreverent and genuine. She’s one of the most realistic characters I’ve read, and I can see myself re-reading this gem. ( )
  PawPrintsInTheSink | Aug 29, 2019 |
Lilian suffered a mental breakdown after her husband’s death in a car accident. She still is seeing a therapist, still has nightmares, and yet must go on, earning a living and raising her two daughters. Now she finds herself in a gardening class, a compulsory condition of her job, and then she and her coworkers are laid off due to job out-sourcing. Lilian has a lot of stress in her life, but she also has a support system consisting of her sister and an old friend, and in her gardening class, she is destined to make new friends. The characters in this book are quite likable, and fairly well developed. The book is a quick read, is quite entertaining, and even offers gardening tips. Humor is sprinkled in on top of the sadness, which offers hope and really makes the whole story fun to read. ( )
  Maydacat | Feb 28, 2019 |
Lilian Girvan is a thirty-four year old widow and mother of two daughters, Annabel, seven, and Clare, five. Since Lilian's husband, Dan, died almost four earlier, she has rejected the possibility of romance. Her younger sister, Rachel, on the other hand, has had a long string of casual boyfriends. Although they have their differences, the siblings are united in their resentment of their narcissistic mother, an aging former model who drinks too much and hurts them with her cutting remarks. Lilian, who works as a textbook illustrator, is assigned to do the artwork for a book about vegetables. As part of the deal, she agrees to take a gardening class from a master horticulturalist, Dr. Edward Bloem.

"The Garden of Small Beginnings," by Abbi Waxman, is a pleasant but formulaic tale in which gardening is a metaphor for life and growth. If you want your strawberries, green beans, and tomatoes to thrive, you must prepare the soil, place the seeds properly, provide nourishment, keep pests away, water judiciously, and insure that the plants get the right amount of sunlight. Lilian has been stagnating emotionally. She adores her kids and and enjoys her job, but her late husband is still very much on her mind. Edward, who seems interested in her, is good-looking, easygoing, generous, and empathetic. Will Lili put her grief aside and allow herself to fall in love again?

Waxman peppers her narrative with wit and humor, a bit of profanity, and a hint of sexuality, but she does not imbue her characters with much shading. Edward is too perfect to be believed; Lilian's kids are ridiculously precocious; and Rachel and Lilian's mother is overbearing and tactless. On the plus side, Lilian is a smart and sassy heroine, and the author gives her secondary characters varied and colorful back stories: there is a nerd from MIT, a single mom from a poor neighborhood, a pair of gay women who have been together for decades, and a retired banker, all of whom are members of Lilian's gardening class. These diverse individuals become a cohesive group, form lasting friendships, and enjoy the fruits of their manual labor. In "The Garden of Small Beginnings," Waxman tackles big themes, such as the difficulty of adjusting to unforeseen changes and the fear of taking risks after suffering a grievous loss. This is an earnest and often amusing novel that should appeal to fans of light domestic fiction. ( )
  booklover915 | Feb 5, 2019 |
Abbi has 3 dogs and 3 cats so right from the start I knew she was my kind of people. Her note to her readers had me cracking up so her book had to be great right? And it was! I fell in love with the characters, especially Annabel and Clare. I'm definitely looking forward to her next read! ( )
  michelynn2016 | Nov 20, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.  ---ANAIS NIN
Dedication
For my husband, David, who is my friend, my hero, and my woobie.
For my sister, Emily, who is the person I write for... the person for whom I write...oh, she knows what I mean.
And for my mother, Paula Gosling, who told me I was a writer before I could read.  Now she can say she told me so, which mothers love to do.
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It's been more than three years since my husband died, yet in many ways he's more useful than ever.
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