I fell into this book with ease and rapidity, for along with the fable-like stories that Meg’s mother, Val, told her, there were vast sections that were devoted to food and gardening. It was a bit like Sarah Addison Allen’s books in that there was magic on the pages but the book never veered into magical realism. Val’s stories of Meg’s life were vastly entertaining and fun, and I found myself wishing that I had had that kind of childhood, where fact blended with fantasy to form the perfect melange of unique flavor and sparkling moments.
There was also romance, but of a rather different nature than most books. Meg is happy with her boyfriend, Mark, who is an outstanding scientist and who loves the facts and truth much more than any character that I have ever seen. But I found Mark to be a blowhard, and it was increasingly difficult to like the man who insisted that Val was purposely deceiving Meg to keep the truth from her. As difficult as it was for Meg to watch her mother die, it was even more difficult to have Mark at her side, viciously smearing the memories of her mother into an ugly paste of lies and deceit.
It seemed that Val’s only friend, aside from Meg, was the gardiner, Ewan. Ewan was a kind of nutty character, but he was a great nut and a lot of fun on the page. He talked to the apple trees to make them grow. He kindly told the slugs not to eat the lettuce, and he doted on Meg’s mother, who filled his belly with lovely treacle tarts and sticky homemade buns. I liked that he was practical yet still whimsical, and when Meg needed someone to talk to about Val, he was all ears. He was a great character and I had a lot of respect for him. Ewan and Meg had a difficult relationship, full of stormy battles, but he was a man that could and did deserve her trust.
This was a tale about identity and the lack of it that some people always feel. It was a novel where secrets were imbued with magic to take their sting and potency away, and where the unbelievable is scattered with truth to form the essence of what it was like for a young mother to raise a daughter alone and still have her come out to be whole, successful, and loving. It was a beautiful book that I would love to read again, and for those readers who are looking for some “comfort food” reading, this would be perfect. An outstanding read, highly recommended.
This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.