just a little note of apology to TLC Book Tours who gave me a chance to review this book, and to the author of the book, who rushed me a signed, gorgeous copy…I’m really sorry. First I fled my old apartment under extreme duress. Trying to salvage the friendship of my roommate, I pawned my netbook (only just got it back) and gave him the money. I found all the stuff to my desktop…except my surge protector (It either got lost in the shuffle, or, it was just one of a number things my roomies decided to keep while I was away a few months ago). Anyway, my new neighbors blew a fuse and my computer died. I began reading The Unfinished Garden the day it arrived and finished it in a couple of days it was so good. I’m very sorry and thank you very much.
The Unfinished Garden by Barbara Claypole White is a unique, beautiful book. This is a romance novel for everyone: those of us that are dyed-in-the-wool romantics and those who projectile vomit whenever we read Danielle Steele (I swing more toward the latter). Many romance novels have flawed characters, but these often seem contrived and cut from the same cloth the other biddies in the romance quilting bee spun their characters from. Not so with The Unfinished Garden. Claypole White’s first novel lingers with the reader long after the story ends.
The Unfinished Garden recommends itself to me in reminding me of one of my all-time favorite books, The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett. The Secret Garden is a classic children’s book, in which the flawed characters heal themselves through the redemptive qualities of gardening. The Unfinished Garden is The Secret Garden for adults, particularly those with OCD or are mourning. Since I am a card carrying member of Club OCD and recently joined the My Mom is Dead T-Shirt Committee, this book recommends itself to me in its entirety. Through gardening, the two main characters begin the process of healing from their demons, one with OCD, the other with the death of her husband.
James Nealy is not the typical love interest in a novel. James is handsome, but has enough ‘baggage’ to sink the Titanic, iceberg not needed. He has obsessive-compulsive disorder compounded with generalized anxiety disorder. James easily could become the bungling, hilarious OCD guy of popular culture, but the author’s sensitivity to James and his affliction paints an authentic portrait of someone struggling with anxiety and the past.
Tilly Silverberg is the heroine of The Unfinished Garden, a widowed mother running her own plant nursery. The death of Tilly’s husband three years ago is still in the forefront of her mind, along with regret and guilt. David, her husband, got into a terrible auto accident and was left in a vegetative state. Tilly can’t help but wonder, though, had she refused her husband’s wish to not be kept alive by machines, would he have recovered? She feels by letting the doctors know about her husband’s living will, she in effect killed him. Thanks to modern technology, this is a very believable scenario. I wonder at times whether I should have done more, tried everything to prolong life though it would have gone against what I knew my mother wanted.
When James and Tilly meet, it is due to James wanting someone to build him a garden. While James feels an intense need for it to be Tilly who landscapes his garden, Tilly doesn’t want to branch out her nursery for James or anyone else. James persists though due to his attraction to Tilly and the reason he, a rich software designer, wants a garden: to conquer his contamination obsessions, dirt being a major trigger. As in all good love stories (the ones that are neither too sentimental or about dudes shooting photos of bridges while committing adultery) love conquers all. In spite of having a debilitating mental illness, and even because of the tenacity inspired by his OCD, James emerges triumphant.
I can’t recommend this book enough. If you have OCD, no matter what your particular obsessions and quirks, you will identify with James and the motivations of his actions in life. James has that sensitivity to the world that can be a blessing and a curse, where he is attracted to other troubled souls. He is afraid of everyday life situations, but has amazing strength at things that fluster or even terrify ‘normal’ folks. I wish I knew James, and you will probably wish you did too by the end of the book. Shoot, if you just want to read a good book and are as normal as normal be, read The Unfinished Garden!