Publisher: Random House - Ballantine
Publication Date: Oct 7 2014
My Rating: 4 Stars
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For fans of Sarah Addison Allen, Aimee Bender, and Alice Hoffman, The Night Garden is a luminous novel of love, forgiveness, and the possibilities that arise when you open your heart.
Nestled in the bucolic town of Green Valley in upstate New York, the Pennywort farm appears ordinary, yet at its center lies something remarkable: a wild maze of colorful gardens that reaches beyond the imagination. Local legend says that a visitor can gain answers to life’s most difficult problems simply by walking through its lush corridors.
Yet the labyrinth has never helped Olivia Pennywort, the garden’s beautiful and enigmatic caretaker. She has spent her entire life on her family’s land, harboring a secret that forces her to keep everyone at arm’s length. But when her childhood best friend, Sam Van Winkle, returns to the valley, Olivia begins to question her safe, isolated world and wonders if she at last has the courage to let someone in. As she and Sam reconnect, Olivia faces a difficult question: Is the garden maze that she has nurtured all of her life a safe haven or a prison?
A special thank you to Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
THE NIGHT GARDEN by Lisa Van Allen, is a magical fairy tale; whimsical journey of hope, love, forgiveness and courage.
Outside the windows of northwestern Catskills, the Pennyworts each year have expanded the beautiful garden maze to be one or two rooms bigger. Flowers grow out of season and plants that should not have bloomed in western Catskills soil were hardy and flamboyant. Everyone talks about this special and mysterious garden and the Penny Loafers.
The garden and its legend became so popular that women would go to the Pennywort’s property and stay with them for as long as they needed to get answers from the Maze, and in exchange they would only have to help out with chores. These women were known as Penny Loafers.
The maze, some people said, could bring on a kind of mental or emotional clarity—if a person was open to it. The things a woman did not understand about herself might become clearer; the difficult choice a man had to make would not become less difficult but he might feel more confident about making it after a visit to the garden.
Olivia Pennywort was like a beautiful but dangerous plant kept safely under glass, a thing to be admired only from afar. And though few people in Green Valley knew it, she had not come to be so standoffish for her own good, but for the good of everyone around her. Her natural inclination was to be affectionate, trusting, and warm. It had taken many years of careful practice for her to learn how to rein in her enthusiasm about making new friends, to act as if her personality fell in the precise center between friendly and aloof. There was no choice; much as she loved her neighbors, she had to stay slightly away.
She does not flirt with men, and she was always generous and amusing to the children, and to the tribe of transient women who slept in the Pennywort barn and took care of the gardens. Olivia isolated, yet strived to be a sympathetic leader, a good listener, and a patient caregiver—but because none of the women ever stayed on the farm very long, she was saved from the moral conundrum of becoming anyone’s actual friend. It was only with her father, the one person who knew what she was and loved her anyway, that she could truly be herself.
She lives in a paradise of such extravagant enchantments that the world had not seen such a place since Adam and Eve and she alone heard its secrets whispered in her ear. The Pennywort farm with its fields and woods and outbuildings and barns and garden maze was like a living, human sized terrarium, exclusive, self-sustaining, self-contained.
However, the beautiful and magical labyrinth never helped Olivia, the caretaker as she has spent her entire life harboring a secret keeping everyone away. However, when Sam Van Winkle, her childhood best friend returns to the valley, Olivia begins to question her safe and isolated world and questions if she should let someone in, as Sam and Olivia both have their own secrets. As they reconnect, she faces a difficult question, is the garden a safe haven or a prison.
A beautifully written and contemporary novel told from different POV (Olivia Pennywort, her father, and Sam). The Night Garden, is a magical story with vivid imagery so real, as if you were walking through the gardens, stopping to ponder on a bench.
A compelling novel filled with love, happiness, loss, grief, and hope. One of life lessons and reflection. Fans of Sarah Addison Allen will enjoy this magical adventure of love and escape!
Jason M Lawless
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