When the author had contacted me and asked if I’d be willing to review her book for my blog I jumped at the chance. I had already seen a few good reviews for it and I was anxious to read it. I was not disappointed in the least by this novel-it is a fantastic debut novel by Joanne Rendell. I read it in two sittings and that’s only because life got in the way on the first one. This novel grabbed me from the first chapter and it’s not often a novel can do that.
For me, this book was a wonderful testament to the power of the friendship women share. The story revolves around four women: Sofia, Mary, Ashleigh, and Hannah. They meet because of a garden that is enclosed between the buildings of the Manhattan U’s that houses faculty members. It’s a beautiful and peaceful garden with Maple trees and honeysuckle and it offers each of these women something different as they are all battling with their own issues. However, doom is looming. Mary’s husband, Dean Havemeyer (Jack) is campaigning to have the garden demolished and a parking garage built instead. He is doing this for secret reasons of his own that have little to do with a parking garage but more to do with a mystery surrounding an Edgar Allan Poe manuscript; which turns out to be a really interesting twist to this novel that I enjoyed.
Joanne Rendell has a talent for drawing us into her character’s lives and making them seem so real. I was surprised to find myself liking all of the women and caring about what was going to happen to them. She addressed issues of domestic abuse among the more affluent where most believe it can’t possibly exist. She tackles motherhood, marriage and even sexual orientation in a classy way.
For me, my favorite character would have to be Sofia. She used to be a hot shot Hollywood agent but gave it up to be a stay at home mom to her two children but she’s struggling with whether she’s done the right thing. Should she go back to being the hot shot business woman? I loved her spunk and go-getter attitude. Next was Mary, Jack’s wife. She is battling a huge wall of emotions as she is struggling with an abusive relationship and counting the days until she can leave. She’s gotten trapped in a life that so often creeps up in small bits until it’s a huge mountain and in you’re in it so deep that it seems impossible to leave. She is determined to start a new life without Jack-will she be able to do it? Then there is Hannah, an ex-model turned artist who is struggling in her marriage. To cheat or not to cheat? To stay in a marriage that is now two strangers or move on and start over. Last we have Ashleigh, she is struggling with her personal life in general. Does she reveal to her father that she is in a relationship with a woman or give it all up and lose the love of her life?
These four women are all strong in their own ways but they are most definitely strong together. Their love for each other and the strong ties of friendship that develop shine through in this novel-so much so you will find yourself wishing they were your friends. They share their hopes, dreams and failures with each other. They fight for what is right and what they believe in together. I’m already missing these women and this story. I would definitely recommend this novel!
Joanne Rendell has another novel coming out in 2009 and I really look forward to it. It’s going to be about two female professors working in the English Department at Manhattan U-the same setting as for this novel. I really look forward to reading it. You can visit Joanne’s website here and her blog here. Thanks again Joanne for a most wonderful read!
Other reviews to note: