Monday, December 20, 2010

Review: Winter Bloom

Summary: There would be tunnels of roses, beds of strawberries, fountains of overflowing herbs. And there might even be love. . . .

In the heart of bustling modern Dublin is a littered, overgrown garden of tangled weeds and a stagnant, hidden pond. Belonging to an iron-willed elderly lady named Mrs. Prendergast, who is rumored to have murdered and buried her husband there, the garden draws Eva Madigan, a young mother struggling to move on from the pain of her past. Eva is joined by Emily, a beautiful but withdrawn college dropout; Uri, an old-world immigrant; Seth, his all-too-handsome son; and occasionally even Mrs. Prendergast herself. But what drives Eva to transform the neglected urban wilderness? What makes the others want to help her? Even as Mrs. Prendergast puts the land up for sale, the thorny lives of all the gardeners are revealed and slowly start to untangle. Overgrown secrets are dug up and shared. Choices are made; a little pruning is in order. Now Eva is about to discover that every garden is a story of growth toward a final harvest. . . . - Gallery Books

When I was younger, I enjoyed reading Maeve Binchy's books. I can pretty much blame her for my interest in Ireland as well as my huge desire to visit the country. She's also the reason that I'm drawn to other novels that take place in Ireland. So I was very happy when I discovered WINTER BLOOM by Tara Heavey. WINTER BLOOM is the story of five troubled souls who find themselves beginning to heal when they combine forces to create a beautiful (and bountiful) garden.

There were many things that I enjoyed about WINTER BLOOM. I'm not quite sure that I'd go so far as to say that I loved it, but I did like it a great deal...and I became caught up in the characters' lives. It was definitely a worthwhile read to me, and I found it to be a heartwarming story. As is the case with most books like this one, I found some parts to be rather predictable; however, there were some other side stories that had a few surprises.

One thing that I really appreciated about WINTER BLOOM was that I thought the author did a good job of going back and forth between the various characters' stories. There were quite a few separate stories to juggle, as well as moving between the present and the past, but Ms. Heavey managed to do all of this almost effortlessly. And she certainly kept this reader's attention the entire way. I did have one slight issue with the character's various background stories -- I found myself wanting a bit more information about one or two of them. And one story in particular just seemed as if it were wrapped up a little too neatly. I'm not sure it affected my enjoyment of the novel, but I'm just saying...

Another thing I enjoyed about WINTER BLOOM was how this novel made me feel. This might sound corny (and maybe I should chalk it up to reading it during this time of year), but WINTER BLOOM actually left me with a feeling of hope. Of course, the revitalization of the garden was highly symbolic to the re-birth of the characters; however, I appreciated how each character grew as a result of their connection to each other. Some of the characters were almost pitiful at the beginning of the story, but by the end, they had realized valuable things about love, loss, and friendship. It was just one of those feel-good stories that touched my heart.

WINTER BLOOM would make a great book club pick. I'm not sure this book (or its characters) are for everyone -- I think some of my friends might have some issues with a few of their actions; however, I think books like this one would generate some interesting discussion. There is a reading guide available with some thought-provoking questions. Some of the topics you might want to explore include grief, parent/child relationships, love, and healing. And of course, there is a great deal of symbolism pertaining to the garden which warrants some analysis. In addition to the typical questions, there are also some ideas for enhancing the meeting. One in particular that I enjoyed was discussing how this book would work as a movie.

Overall, I enjoyed WINTER BLOOM. It wasn't a perfect book for me, but I do think it is a worthwhile read as well as a great discussion book!

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this novel.

10 comments:

Sandy Nawrot said...

I feel like I know exactly where you are coming from on this one. I will occasionally read books like this that are a little fluffy and have an entertaining plot, but are ultimately forgettable. There is a place in my life for these books though, as filler in between the heavier stuff I read. (Is it bad that I've always been inspired to visit Ireland because of Bono?)

bermudaonion said...

I enjoy books that leave me with a good feeling like that. The Irish setting would be an added bonus. It sounds like Heavey is a gifted author to juggle all those characters and plot lines.

Rebecca Rasmussen said...

Sometimes I really appreciate a book that makes me feel hopeful...and Ireland is tempting too!

Lisa said...

I have not heard of this book yet...thanks for the review. Being set in Ireland sends it a couple notches up my to read list.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I absolutely love it when books include reading guides. It really helps me focus my thoughts!

marthalama said...

I love books set in Ireland. My Husband and I spent part of our Honeymoon in Ireland and I love books that remind me of that time. I also enjoy a light, fluffy read now and again. I think I'll be adding this one to my list.

Just Mom said...

I'm a Maeve Binchy fan too so this one sounds good - sweet and interesting.

Veens said...

I love how you felt, I occasionally love reading books like this and ti is the season for reading this kind of book. :)

Mike Lindgren said...

Nice review, makes me want to pick it up…

Beth F said...

I love feel-good books -- especially during times of stress and struggle. I'll have to look into her books for the Ireland reading challenge.