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June 11, 2020

The Heirloom Garden by Viola Shipman ~ a Review

by Susan Roberts

"Grandma Myrtle would take her pruners and point around her gardens. 'Just look around, Iris.  The daisies remind you to be happy.  The hydrangeas inspire us to be colorful.  The lilacs urge us to breathe deeply.  The pansies reflect our own images back at us.  The hollyhocks show us how to stand tall in this world.  And the roses - oh the roses! - they prove that beauty is always present even amongst the thorns.'" (p 19)
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The Heirloom Garden by  Viola Shipman
April 2020; Graydon House; 978-1525804649
audio, ebook, print (416 pages); women's fiction
The Heirloom Garden
is another fantastic book by Viola Shipman. I started it as soon as it showed up in my mailbox, even though I had a stack of books that should have been read first but this is one of my 'go to' authors and I had to read it right away.  I am a huge fan of books about Michigan and books that take place on Lake Michigan always tug at my heart because of all the summers that I spent at the Lake growing up. This author describes the area around Lake Michigan so well and so beautifully that it is an integral part of the story - as important as the characters.  I loved this book and think it will be one of the "must read" books of Spring, 2020.

The story is told in dual timelines and in different eras.

1944 - Iris lost her husband in WWII and her daughter not too long after that.  Her grief caused her to put walls up around her house and around her heart.  She doesn't have anything to do with the people in town, has her groceries and garden supplies delivered, and is only really alive when she is spending time in her beloved gardens.  In her gardens, she re-lives her memories of her grandmother, her mother, her husband, and her daughter -- the garden becomes her only family.

2003 - Abby, her husband, and their daughter, Lily, move from the Detroit area to Grand Haven for Abby to take a new job.  They rent the house next door to Iris (which Iris still owns) but the high fences let them know that Iris has no desire for company or friendly neighbors.  Abby is trying to handle everything - her husband has PTSD and is unable to contribute to the family either emotionally or monetarily.  Instead, he mostly sleeps, drinks, and re-lives his memories of war. Lily tries to make the best of things but she is lonely and nervous about starting at a new school with no friends.  

Both of these households are in a bad place - Iris misses her long-gone family and Abby misses the husband that she had before he went to war.  The two families are slowly drawn together at first through their love for flowers and then through the help that they can both bring to each other.  Even though the two women are separated by a generation, they are both equally scarred by war but manage to find love and friendship through their gardens of flowers. 

I loved the way that the author set up this book.  Each new chapter is named after a different flower - lilacs, bleeding heart, daisies, etc and then gives more insight into each family.  I love flowers and enjoyed the way that the story was so intermingled with flower images.   The characters are so well written that I feel like I know them and the Lake Michigan setting is so well described that I felt like I'd gone on a mini-vacation.

"Peace is within our reach if only we choose it."  (p 296)

Buy The Heirloom Garden at Amazon

About the Author

Viola Shipman is a 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 divides his time between Michigan and California, writes regularly for People and Coastal Living and is a contributor to All Things Considered. He is the bestselling author of The Charm Bracelet (see review) and The Hope Chest (see review).

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling. She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their family and friends. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on FacebookGoodreads, or Twitter.

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