Diane Ackerman relishes the world of her garden. As a poet, she finds within it an endless field of metaphors. As a naturalist, she notices each small, miraculous detail: the hummingbirds and their routines, the showy tulips, the crazy yellow forsythia. Of visiting deer she writes, "I love watching the deer, which always arrive like magic or a miracle or the answer to an unasked question."
In her popular book A Natural History of the Senses, Ackerman celebrates the human body; in A Natural History of My Garden, she turns her attention to the world outside the body, outside the human sphere. Structured by seasons, this is a book of subtle shifts, but the reader never feels lost. Her prose is so welcoming, at times it feels like she's talking directly to you, although her lush, poetic language is the opposite of speech.
Distracted urban readers craving a book that will transport them would do well to spend time immersed in these pages, as will gardeners who've lost appreciation for their plot. Ackerman is a generous writer--a teacher who will share treasured, obscure passages from Beckett or Hawthorne. She's emotional and highly charged, and her descriptions are so clear they're small marvels. She's remarkable for her ability to find mystery everywhere. --Emily White
From Publishers Weekly
In a generous and jauntily haphazard excursion through the four seasons of her Ithaca, N.Y., backyard landscape and the innumerable interests of her fertile mind, poet and naturalist Ackerman (A Natural History of the Senses; A Natural History of Love) reprises her role as an enchanting intellectual sensualist. Her extensive flower (and even weed) beds provide both subject matter and metaphor. More interested in what a great garden does for a person's spirit and soul than in how to make it grow, Ackerman buzzes productively from idea to revelation to insight, lighting on topics as diverse as how roses are reminiscent of dolls' faces; why we see faces in nature; how plants, animals and humans are alike; whether plants have motives and instincts; how flowers protect themselves from both heat, aridity and freezing cold; and why women are more prone to hypothermia than men in just five paragraphs. She celebrates the diversity of weeds, finds beauty in chaos and order, embraces trial and error as a way of learning and respects the inevitable cycle of birth, death and rebirth. (Oct.)Forecast: With the success of her earlier works preceding her, and an eight-city author tour and 15-city NPR campaign to come, Ackerman's breezy philosophical lyricism should flourish amoang both garden enthusiasts and fans of encyclopedic curiosity.
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