The Garden of Small Beginnings, by Abbi Waxman

Setting:  Southern California


  • Lilian Girvan – Widowed mother of two young girls, textbook illustrator, narrator
  • Rachel Anderby – Lilian’s sister
  • Frances, Eloise, Angie, Gene, Mike – other students in the gardening class Lilian and Rachel attend

Plot:  It’s been four years since Lilian’s husband, Dan, was killed in a car accident right in front of Lilian’s eyes. After the accident, Lillian lost her mind for a little while – and who could blame her? Her sister, Rachel, took charge of caring for her children and Lili began the very long journey of healing from such a trauma. As a text book illustrator, at least Lili has job security and is able to use her talent and passion for art. When the publisher she works for asks Lili to illustrate a new book about vegetables, they send her to a gardening class for inspiration. The class introduces Lili, her kids, and Rachel to a cast of quirky and endearing characters, all at different places in their lives. Together, they learn to grow vegetables, yes, but they also learn about the power of friendship, the distance between first impressions and reality, and how the unexpected impacts every life.

Pacing:  Steady

Predictability:  n/a

Wild Card:  From the first pages and chapter, I was hooked. The Garden of Small Beginnings is funny and insightful and heartbreaking all at once. As Lili narrates her life story, she shares pieces of herself with readers – at times fatalistic, as times sarcastic, but always real, true, and forthright. This is, by far, one of the best books I’ve read this year, and one I’m sure I’ll return to read again and again.

Hit, Miss, or Draw?  A five-star hit.

About the Book
32570475Lilian 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…

About the Author
IMG_0153-200x300.jpgAbbi Waxman was born in England in 1970, the oldest child of two copywriters who never should have been together in the first place. Once her father ran off to buy cigarettes and never came back, her mother began a highly successful career writing crime fiction. She encouraged Abbi and her sister Emily to read anything and everything they could pull down from the shelves, and they did. Naturally lazy and disinclined to dress up, Abbi went into advertising, working as a copywriter and then a creative director at various advertising agencies in London and New York. Clients ranged from big and traditional, (AT&T, Chase Manhattan Bank, IBM, American Express, Unilever, Mercedes-Benz) to big and morally corrupt (R. J. Reynolds) to big and larcenous (Enron). Eventually, she quit advertising, had three kids and started writing books, TV shows, and screenplays, largely in order to get a moment’s peace.

Abbi lives in Los Angeles with her husband, three kids, three dogs, three cats, a gecko, two mice and six chickens. Every one of these additions made sense at the time, it’s only in retrospect that it seems foolhardy.

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