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The Memory Garden Paperback – 6 May 2014

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (6 May 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402297122
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402297120
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 12.7 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 745,024 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Book Reviewer on 6 Oct. 2014
Format: Paperback
The Memory Garden by Mary Rickert is a thoughtful, brooding and expressive tale about the fear, anxiety and disquiet of aging with all its encumbrances and inconveniences. A searing picture has been painted of the pain and discomfort that comes along with aging, dreadful in its totality but certainly inevitable. What, however, is to be noted is that it is not just about the negatives in life. Mary Rickert’s story is also about the vivacity, strength and faith in the power of bonding that can withstand even the severest of test.

It is the story of Nan who grew plants in shoes thrown in by people who fails to understand her weird ways. But at the ripe age of 78, Nan is not particularly worried about what others think as she has her own worry – her adopted daughter, Bay, who is only fifteen years old. Life is not easy for Bay. She is friendless, unwanted, and derided. Her school mates taunt her and mock her because of the strange and peculiar house she lives in and the strange ways of Nan. An angry and hurt Bay demands an explanation, and Nan has to tell her everything, and how it all came to pass.

It all began long ago when Nan, Mavis and Ruthie were fast friends with a common secret. The loss of Eve, another friend, severely tested their friendship and failed to endure. They haven’t seen each other in over fifty years, but now Nan must talk to her estranged friends. When Ruthie and Mavis turn up, it stirs up a lot of things instead of ending the confusion. Bay lives in constant fear, with ghosts haunting her. Ruthie and Mavis also have secrets of their own, never known to Nan. And to add to the confusion, Eve’s great niece shows up claiming to be writing a book.
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Format: Paperback
To sum this book up in a single statement is nearly impossible, but if I had to come close, I would say "curious."

If you like magic realism, then you will most likely love this book. However, if you like things that are more straightforward with characters that reveal themselves to the reader easily, this might not be your cup of herb-laden tea.

When I first started this book I was amazed. This author has some truly incredible quotes in this book. They are the kind that you want to repeat to whomever is nearest you, regardless of whether you know them or not. The magic is apparent right away (shoe garden...amazing!)

Still, even though the writing is incredibly good and the story is interesting, this was a difficult book to judge. The characters are very reserved and it is difficult for the reader to get to know them. This may have been intentional on the part of the author, but it made for some rough patches whilst reading. The story flows very smoothly, but there were times when I wished I could just shake a character to get inside their thought process. This was particularly true of Nan.

The story that this book tells is deeply interwoven into the personalities and experiences of the characters. I liked the people in this story, and wanted to continue to learn about them. This book created a mixture of emotions in me, and I definitely think that it is one of those books where you are either in or you are out. You will either love it, or not at all.

I would recommend this book to those who like magical tales that are deeply rooted in family relationships. It will be interesting to see what else comes from the mind of this talented author.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 66 reviews
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
OF GHOSTS, MEMORIES, LIFE & FRIENDSHIP! 6 May 2014
By the GreatReads! - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The Memory Garden by Mary Rickert is a thoughtful, brooding and expressive tale about the fear, anxiety and disquiet of aging with all its encumbrances and inconveniences. A searing picture has been painted of the pain and discomfort that comes along with aging, dreadful in its totality but certainly inevitable. What, however, is to be noted is that it is not just about the negatives in life. Mary Rickert’s story is also about the vivacity, strength and faith in the power of bonding that can withstand even the severest of test.

It is the story of Nan who grew plants in shoes thrown in by people who fails to understand her weird ways. But at the ripe age of 78, Nan is not particularly worried about what others think as she has her own worry – her adopted daughter, Bay, who is only fifteen years old. Life is not easy for Bay. She is friendless, unwanted, and derided. Her school mates taunt her and mock her because of the strange and peculiar house she lives in and the strange ways of Nan. An angry and hurt Bay demands an explanation, and Nan has to tell her everything, and how it all came to pass.

It all began long ago when Nan, Mavis and Ruthie were fast friends with a common secret. The loss of Eve, another friend, severely tested their friendship and failed to endure. They haven’t seen each other in over fifty years, but now Nan must talk to her estranged friends. When Ruthie and Mavis turn up, it stirs up a lot of things instead of ending the confusion. Bay lives in constant fear, with ghosts haunting her. Ruthie and Mavis also have secrets of their own, never known to Nan. And to add to the confusion, Eve’s great niece shows up claiming to be writing a book.

The Memory Garden by Mary Rickert is a story of life in all its shades - friendship, bonding, love, regret, loss, fear and the inevitability of the difficult circumstances brought about by the ravages of time. What is particularly striking about the book is the inclusion of the uses of flowers in each chapter. A stunning and realistic portrayal of life, manifesting all its beauty and ugliness, a book full of everyday magic and beautifully written, The Memory Garden is a link between different age-groups, and a must-read for all.
35 of 41 people found the following review helpful
The Memory Garden (2.5 Stars) 19 May 2014
By Book of Secrets - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

THE MEMORY GARDEN is a curious coming-of-age story threaded through with magical realism, unsettling memories, and herbal folklore. At the heart of the story is Bay, a teenage girl being raised by her adoptive mother Nan, an elderly woman thought to be a witch. Nan has spent many years harboring guilt over a tragedy from her girlhood. Just after Bay’s 15th birthday, Nan invites the two friends who share her dark secret to visit, hoping to put the ghosts of the past to rest.

I was very intrigued by the premise of THE MEMORY GARDEN, but unfortunately the story and characters never quite clicked with me. The book had a slow start, and much of what was going on was hard for me to follow. After the big build up, the revelation at the end was a bit disappointing. I also wish the prose had flowed smoother than it did. The odd, choppy dialogue between characters didn’t help my confusion.

That said, there were parts of the book I enjoyed. I loved the strange atmosphere the author created with Nan’s rustic old house, her eccentric garden of mismatched shoe planters, and the restless spirits drawn to Bay and Nan. I also liked how the book highlighted the friendship between Nan, Ruthie, and Mavis that couldn’t be broken, even after decades apart.

Even though this book didn’t work for me, readers who like quirky tales, ghost stories, and magical realism might want to give it a try.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A lovely, meandering lovesong of a book focused on growing old, and regrets, and learning to see who your loved ones are 6 July 2014
By kbirdlincoln - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I came to The Memory Garden a fan of M. Rickert's short stories from years ago. I hadn't read a story by her in a long, long time, but as soon as we encounter the teenager Bay, and her garden and past-obsessed Nana, it was like curling up in front of a fireplace with a steaming herb tea.

Rickert has a dreaming quality to her characters that makes them as loveable as a befuddled great aunt in the nursing home. Nana is elderly, and her two former best friends finally reuniting with her long after their terrible secret forced them apart, are also a bit vague.

"Are you having goose pimples? Did someone just walk on your grave? Isn't it just the sweetest place? Can't you just picture it with a little garden of daffodils? Deer won't eat daffodils, you know, but they love tulips. And some rocking chairs and wind chimes?"

This quality was atmospheric and homey in her short stories, but in this novel, some times you loose the thread of the conversation. And basically, this novel is one, long conversation about Nana's secrets, who Bay thinks she is, and how the three friends all don't really see each other clearly.

It's a book to sit with and savor, as the characters savor a flower-themed meal in the book (that had my mouth watering) of chicken with rose-petal sauce and curried dahlia lillies, calendula biscuits, and lavendar-goat cheese stuffaed dates.

And tucked within the story are illuminated moments like this one:

"The snow falls, and Nan feels strangely light. She might at any moment rise out of her clogs and fly above her house and garden, like a sparrow. The now falls, and Nan covers her mouth with one hand, as though to prevent the exhalation that will release her from the gravity of a world more beautiful than anything she deserves."

If you like Alice Hoffman's Practical Magic, you'll most likely enjoy this book. A lovely, meandering lovesong of a book focused on growing old, and regrets, and learning to see who your loved ones are, conducted in a garden of witchy herbs and flowers.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This book made me hold it close to my heart when it was over 9 May 2014
By Haddayr COPLEYWOODS - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is BEAUTIFUL. Captivating. The best sort of witches you can imagine. Deeply rooted in wonderful garden and food imagery. Incredibly important -- this is a book about women and friendships, and the history of how the rights of women affected friendships. It's about motherhood, and childhood, and about secrets and how much they can hold back and damage you. It's about beauty. SO beautifully written. Like poetry, like a gorgeous perfect glass of wine, like chocolate. It is not surprising to me that a writer of Mary Rickert's experience wrote her first novel so skillfully and brilliantly, with none of those 'first book' problems, but the lack of surprise did not make it any less delightful. Buy this for your sister, your mother, your best girlfriend. THIS BOOK IS WONDERFUL.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
I really wanted to love this book. 20 Jun. 2014
By Laura Rich - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I really wanted to love this book. The idea is enticing; elderly witches gather one last time, a young witch coming of age, a magic system based on plants and flowers, old secrets, ghosts, but the execution is painful. While I love magical realism, I don't feel this is a very good example. Rickert paints beautiful scenes but the dialogue stays just vague and brief enough to be annoying and combined with the use of third person, hopping among the characters is dizzying. It was especially frustrating during the day of the dinner party which seems to last for over half the book and where everyone is high on flowers. Overall, it felt like a outline for a really good book that I'd still like to read.
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