Genre: Historical Fiction
Review in a word: Intimate
Dear “Garden Witch,”
I’ve stained my fingers blue trying to do this right.
Two women, Rita and Glory, become pen pals during World War II. Both of their husbands are fighting in the war, and together they form a remarkable bond that carries them through the trials and heartaches of wartime. Sharing advice, recipes, gossip, and stories, they look forward to the time when they can meet face-to-face.
Ok, first, let me just stop. Have you seen this cover?? (I know you have; I’m going to show you again.) Look at this:
Full front and back cover flaps, with front and back inside cover copy, featuring a letter to the reader from the senior editor at Harlequin, an in-depth Q&A with Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan, a page dedicated to praise quotes, and the author’s bios. In full, gorgeous color. The sunflowers are used symbolically throughout the book and rendered beautifully on the cover. Clearly Harlequin thought this book was worth the expense, and it paid off. The presentation is beyond beautiful. That was the number one reason I picked up this book.
There’s more you should know. This is an epistolary story, in letters back and forth between the friends—and that’s how the authors began writing the story, too. They were each a character and they wrote back and forth to each other as the character before deciding to make it into a book. The authors have never met each other. How cool is that?!
As if this wasn’t enough motivation to read the book, the story itself is absolutely stunning. I fell in love with both Rita and Glory, like they were my own friends. They are funny and honest and imperfect—just how I like them. In different ways, they must make decisions about how to live in a world transformed by horror. But despite being in such an atypical scenario, they are touchingly relatable. I was constantly underlining quotes, thinking, “Yes! I know exactly what she means.” That’s why I say this book is intimate; these friends share the closest of friendships, in which the true affection and sympathy you share is from the deepest part of you.
On a personal level, what I loved most was the way they encouraged each other in their marriages. Glory is twenty-three during the story—my age—and is still growing and maturing, learning about feminism and discovering her true passions. (This sounds like someone I know…) She struggles to love her husband and remain loyal to him while he is gone for so long. I can only imagine being in her situation. But Rita’s advice to her was advice I want to live by. We all need friends like her.
Rita: The reason doesn’t matter as much as the actions you take from here on in. Think about it this way—our actions speak truths our words cannot. So whatever you decide to do next is telling the world what you think of your husband. (129)
Rita: When you feel weak in spirit, think about the agreements you made with yourself about how to live an honorable life. (137)
Rita: I’m not an expert, but I believe marriage is about loving someone enough to accept whatever comes, be it pleasant or unpleasant without a thought of giving up. (256)
Glory: Wake in the stability of a proven, time-tested love and then create the passion that can exist inside of it. (262)
Rita: This is America. The generosity of spirit, the understanding of human dignity, the concept of allowing our enemies to partake in the bounty of our land, because we are faithful to our promise when we signed the Geneva Conventions and because, quite simply, it’s the right thing to do. (297)
Gee, I wonder… YES. Did I mention recipes are included in the book? Yeah, it’s awesome.