Title: The Heirloom Garden
Author: Viola Shipman
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Graydon House
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Release Date: April 28, 2020
In her inimitable style, Viola Shipman explores the unlikely relationship between two very different women brought together by the pain of war, but bonded by hope, purpose…and flowers.
Iris Maynard lost her husband in World War II, her daughter to illness and, finally, her reason to live. Walled off from the world for decades behind the towering fence surrounding her home, Iris has built a new family…of flowers. Iris propagates her own daylilies and roses while tending to a garden filled with the heirloom starts that keep the memories of her loved ones alive.
When Abby Peterson moves next door with her family—a husband traumatized by his service in the Iraq War and a young daughter searching for stability—Iris is reluctantly yet inevitably drawn into her boisterous neighbor’s life, where, united by loss and a love of flowers, she and Abby tentatively unearth their secrets, and help each other discover how much life they have yet to live.
With delightful illustrations and fascinating detail, Viola Shipman’s heartwarming story will charm readers while resonating with issues that are so relevant today.
This book tells the story of two women from different generations who are brought together by their experiences of war. Iris’s husband was killed in WWII, and her daughter passed away a few years later. She now finds peace in her garden, but she hasn’t left her house in years, closing herself off from the world with tall fences. In 2003, Abby’s family moves into the house next to Iris’s, which Iris rents to them. Abby’s husband has just returned from the Iraq war, but he is a shell of his former self. Abby’s kind daughter, Lily, is curious about the old lady who lives next door, which leads to an unlikely friendship.
This book was a tearjerker. Iris is mourning her husband and daughter decades after their deaths. She still talks to them. It was heartbreaking to see show her life was standing still, for the most part, since they died. Even though Abby’s husband returned from his war, he was so traumatized that he wasn’t himself anymore. Abby and Iris had similar experiences with being left behind in the aftermath of a war.
I loved the dual narratives of Abby and Iris. They had different perspectives, being from two generations, yet there were similarities in their lives. Both of them had their husbands go to war. They were both working in scientific jobs, where they weren’t given opportunities they deserved because they were women. Though they were working in these fields fifty years apart, not much had changed in the way women were treated in the workplace.
I found the gardening aspect of this book fascinating. I don’t know much about gardening, but it was amazing how it brought people together in this book. There was also a scientific side of it, which was described by Iris. She created her own unique flowers. I also didn’t know about the process for saving plants through the winter. Iris would pack them away in her basement to save them for the spring. It made sense, but I had never thought about that process before.
This is a beautiful story!
Thank you Graydon House for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
What to read next:
Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown
The Summer Cottage by Viola Shipman
Viola Shipman is the pen name for Wade Rouse, a popular, award-winning memoirist. Rouse chose his grandmother’s name, Viola Shipman, to honor the woman whose heirlooms and family stories inspire his writing. Rouse is the author of The Summer Cottage, as well as The Charm Bracelet and The Hope Chest which have been translated into more than a dozen languages and become international bestsellers. He lives in Saugatuck, Michigan and Palm Springs, California, and has written for People, Coastal Living, Good Housekeeping, and Taste of Home, along with other publications, and is a contributor to All Things Considered.
Have you read The Heirloom Garden? What did you think of it?