Book Review: "Winter Bloom" by Tara Heavey

Summary from 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 Eva is joined by Emily, a beautiful but withdrawn college dropout; Uri, an old-world immigrant; Seth, his all-too-handsome son; and occasionally even Mrs.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. . . .

I haven't read too many books set in Ireland but it's a country that I want to visit one day. I do enjoy hearing Irish accents as much as I do British accents. I was pleased that this book takes place in Ireland and gave me a way to travel to the country without leaving my armchair.

The story centers around an abandoned garden that is going to be replaced by development until a young widow decides to take charge and bring it back to life. She recruits several people to help her out and like blooming plants, the characters begin to open up about their lives and grow. What I love best about the book are all the stories that are woven together because of the owners' relationship to the garden. Eva is the main character and her story begins the revealing of pasts that have been kept hidden and untold.

I felt that Emily seemed to disappear after her story was told in the beginning. I understand that she had to leave the garden due to her situation. It just seemed like she was introduced and then vanished and then brought back at the end of the story to wrap things up. Mrs. Pendergast's story is so sad. I felt so bad for her and the secrets that she's been keeping all these years. It's heartbreaking to read what she went through but I'm glad that she eventually found that inner strength. Her story also explains why her son is the way he is as well. Equally as moving is Uri's story about living as a child during the Holocaust. It's another heartbreaking tale that is incredibly moving. Some of the characters I didn't find so favorable. Their actions left much to be desired though by the end they started to grow on me.

I think this book would make a great book club read. There's a lot to discuss about the story and the characters are all very diverse. Issues about parent/child relationships, dealing with grief, unplanned pregnancies, abusive relationships and finding new friends are some of the things to talk about after reading. This is the first book I've read from Tara Heavey and I'm looking forward to reading more of her writing.

Winter Bloom by Tara Heavey is published by Gallery Books (2010)

This review copy was provided by the publisher


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