Monday, July 28, 2008

Susannah's Garden by Debbie Macomber

It was the year that changed everything.

When Susannah Nelson turned eighteen, her parents sent her to school abroad. She said goodbye to her boyfriend, Jake - and never saw him again. She never saw her brother again, either; Doug died in a car accident while she was away.

Now, at fifty, she finds herself regretting the paths not taken. Especially the chance to be with Jake . . . Long married, a mother and a teacher, she should be happy. But she feels there's something missing, although she doesn't know exactly what. Not only that, she's balancing the demands of an aging mother and a temperamental twenty-year-old daughter.

Because her mother, Vivian, a recent widow, is having difficulty coping and living alone, Susannah prepares to make some hard decisions. In returning to her hometown of Colville, Washington, to her parents' house, her girlhood friends and the garden she's always loved, she also returns to the past - and the choices she made back then.

What she discovers is that things are not always as they once seemed. Some paths are dead ends. But some gardens remain beautiful . . .

I think I need a Debbie Macomber intervention or perhaps it's not about Debbie Macomber's books but rather about the fact that even if don't really love the series, I still feel the need to keep on reading. What I do know is that I am not going to be taking the risk of reading any other series from this author just in case I can't stop myself!

In this book we meet Susannah, a teacher who has been married to her husband for over 25 years, who has two children, but who has been feeling generally dissatisfied with her life. She has also just realised that it is time for her widowed mother to be moved into an assisted living facility back in her home town, and part of that means packing up a lifetime's worth of belongings, bringing back memories and causing Susannah to reevaluate past relationships.

First things first, I don't know why they bothered to give Susannah a second child who is a boy, because really, this book was about female relationships and her son was barely mentioned. We were given access to Susannah's somewhat fractious relationship with her daughter, Chrissie, as well as with her mother Vivien who stubbornly resists the idea of moving out of her home, and with her best friend from high school, Carolyn, who Susannah is reunited with after many years.

There were probably two things that bothered me about this book, and in order to discuss them there will be SPOILERS....sorry.

The first is the storyline about Susannah's dead brother. Doug had died while Susannah was in school in France. Part of Susannah's issues were with her father, and the way he treated her after Doug died. When her father had died, he and Susannah were basically not talking at all and hadn't been for many years. Her father was a well respected judge, and yet it turned out that he had hidden the truth about the accident that claimed the life of a young man, knowingly breaking the law, and it seems as though there are going to be no real repercussions of that even many years down the track. I don't get why the characters in the book didn't realise who the man who returns to town was if Susannah's mother could clearly see who he was.

The second part of the storyline relates to where this story sits in relation to the Blossom Street books. When I reviewed Back on Blossom Street, I was surprised by a character in the book who had just appeared and there was no back story on. Someone mentioned that this book told that story and that is why I ended up picking it up to read. So as I was reading through this story I kept on waiting for the part of the book that explained how Susannah ended up being part of the community on Blossom Street. It was there, but only in the last couple of pages, and even then it was kind of out of left field. In all of the parts of the book where it talked about her dissatisfaction with her life there was very little about her occupation, and yet in the last two pages suddenly her husband had looked at properties for her to open a shop on Blossom Street. Even in terms of the type of shop she opened, then yes she enjoyed sitting in the garden and looking at flowers but the passion to completely change directions career-wise just wasn't there for me.

Macomber does write in a very accessible way, and what you can be assured of is an uplifting reading experience. I don't want to make it sound as though these books are bad, because they are not, I think it is more a case of not for me, or perhaps more precisely I need to be in a specific mind frame to really enjoy them. I really enjoying literary fiction and I really enjoy reading romances, and other genre fiction, but these books are really neither. I guess they are quintessential women's fiction....whatever that means.


  1. Hi Marg. I so wanted to enjoy Macomber's books, but they just aren't for me. I think I've read three - this being one of them, but was never sold on her. Oh well. I would read another one, but would never go out of my way to do so.

  2. Hi Joy! I am so glad that it isn't just me that feels this way.

  3. Hey Marg,

    I agree with you about Macomber. I've enjoyed a couple of her books (I liked the Blossom Street books - the early ones anyway) but for the most part I'm not too keen on her.

    I've tried several times to read this one and just couldn't get into it. I bought it for the same reason that you did. I'm glad I'm not missing out on anything. ;)



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