THIS SUMMER, GRAB LIFE BY THE ROOTS
The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman
Published: May 2, 2017
Publisher: Berkley Trade
“It is Waxman’s skill at characterization that lifts this novel far above being just another “widow finds love” story. Clearly an observer, Waxman has mastered the fine art of dialogue as well. Characters ring true right down to Lilian’s two daughters, who often steal the show. This debut begs for an encore from Waxman.”—Kirkus Reviews, STARRED review
“Debut author Waxman takes readers from tears to laughter.” —Booklist
“Abbi Waxman’s quick wit and heart shine brightly.”—Actress Molly Shannon
“Beautifully-written. Fun.”—Julia Claiborne Johnson, author of Be Frank With Me
It’s been more than three years since my husband died, yet in many ways he’s more useful than ever. True, he’s not around to take out the trash, but he’s great to bitch at while I’m doing it myself, and he’s generally excellent company, invisibility notwithstanding. And as someone to blame he’s unparalleled, because he isn’t there to contradict me, on account of being cremated.
These opening lines from THE GARDEN OF SMALL BEGINNINGS (Berkley Trade Paperback Original; May 2, 2017) came to novelist Abbi Waxman several years ago as she fantasized about her husband’s death. Not that he had done anything terribly wrong (just a small infraction). But as she indulged her daydreaming, a question took root. What would it really be like to untangle two lives so intertwined? And from that question bloomed a debut novel funny, penetrating, whimsical, and profound—about, of all things, a widow.
Like Lorelai Gilmore, Sophie Kinsella’s shopaholic Becky Bloomwood, or Carrie Bradshaw, narrator Lilian Girvan is a study in contradictions: fast-talking but deeply thoughtful; unrepentant yet profoundly sad; strong-willed and resilient but also vulnerable.
Three years after her husband’s death, Lilian has checked off the requisite mental breakdown, and grown used to navigating life (granted, not always well) as a single mother and widow. Until she is assigned to illustrate a series of boutique vegetable guides, and her boss signs her up for a gardening class. Now she has to get her hands dirty, literally. Lilian shows up at the Los Angeles Botanical Garden feeling out of her element but what she’ll soon discover—with the help of her sister, a handsome instructor, and quirky group of amateur gardeners—is that into every life a little sun must shine, whether you want it to or not.
A former copywriter and creative director at various ad agencies in New York and London, Waxman writes with precision and intelligence, and has delivered a sharp, authentic—and ultimately uplifting—depiction of one woman’s grief.
Sure to resonate with fans of Taylor Jenkins Reid, Emily Giffin, and Lolly Winston’s Good Grief, THE GARDEN OF SMALL BEGINNINGS is a true bright spot and highlight of Berkley’s summer list.
I leave you with my favorite Lilian quote: “If there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women, then I hope there’s a corollary spot in heaven for women who do. Or free parking. Something.
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