The Girl in the Garden by Melanie Wallace

Posted January 25, 2017 by Minx

This review is based on a complimentary book I received from NetGalley. It is an honest and voluntary review. The complimentary receipt of it in no way affected my review or rating.

The Girl in the Garden by Melanie Wallace The Girl in the Garden by Melanie Wallace
Genres: Literary Fiction
Release Date: January 31, 2017
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Format: ARC
Source: NetGalley
Pages: 240
ISBN: 0544784669
ASIN: B01912OUR6
Purchase at: Amazon Barnes & Noble Book Depository Google Play Kobo
Minx's Rating:

An unforgettable novel about a young woman and her infant son, abandoned at a seaside motel in New England, and the secrets of the townspeople who provide them with shelter.

When June arrives on the coast of New England, baby in arms, an untrustworthy man by her side, Mabel—who rents them a cabin—senses trouble. A few days later, the girl and her child are abandoned.  June is soon placed with Mabel’s friend, Iris, in town, and her life becomes entwined with a number of locals who have known one another for decades: a wealthy recluse with a tragic past; a widow in mourning; a forsaken daughter returning for the first time in years, with a stranger in tow; a lawyer, whose longings he can never reveal; and a kindly World War II veteran who serves as the town's sage. Surrounded by the personal histories and secrets of others, June finds the way forward for herself and her son amid revelations of the others' pasts, including loves—and crimes—from years ago.   

In vivid, nuanced prose, Melanie Wallace—“a writer with a tender regard for the marginal, the missing and the lost”*—explores the time-tested bonds of a small community, the healing power of friendship and love, and whether the wrongs of the past can ever be made right.  * Hilary Mantel


I was interested in reading this story because it sounded like the kind of read where you can let yourself fall into the characters. The writing was beautifully descriptive. Almost poetic and filled with flowing prose. For some this writing style may be a turnoff, it just depends on what your tastes are. This story is not just about June and her abandonment. This novel is truly about the inhabitants of a community.

June and her baby, Luke, were abandoned and she is young. She has no options but Mabel, the owner of the motel where June was stranded, already knew that. When she first spied June, Mabel had already decided that she could not turn away her and the baby. With the help of her friend Roland they allowed her to stay for a time at the motel. Winter was coming and for personal reasons Mabel cannot have June stay with her. She is owed a favor from her friend Iris which leads to June and her baby Luke moving into a cottage on her property. Iris has been a recluse for many years and her taking in this girl and her child comes as a surprise to some.

June and Luke’s move to the cottage has a ripple effect on the cast of characters. For some it is June who affects them and brings up memories. For others, it is Luke who affects them and in some ways, brings them back to life. Through alternating narratives, you learn the stories of these characters. The author is very generous with background development on these characters. You truly cultivate an appreciation for where they came from and their struggles.

This book has no true conflict. This is truly a story about people and how life has turned out for them. This is a book full of “feels.” There is a high emotional impact that is created with each character. You will either feel it personally or in a detached manner but no one can read this book without feeling something, well except happiness. This is not a “happy” book but one filled with bitter sweetness. This is about loss, isolation, grief and hope. There are layers of kindness and decency spread throughout this story. It is truly a beautiful story.

*Thank you to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for this eARC of The Girl in the Garden*

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