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Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening: How I Learned the Unexpected Joy of a Green Thumb and an Open Heart Hardcover – March 4, 2014


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Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening: How I Learned the Unexpected Joy of a Green Thumb and an Open Heart + The Gardener of Versailles: My Life in the World's Grandest Garden
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult; F First Edition edition (March 4, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399157980
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399157981
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.9 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (199 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #43,587 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

She knew nothing about gardening. He knew everything. She was a well-to-do white woman. He was an impoverished immigrant from Kenya. And yet, in the garden he transformed for her from a patch of weeds into a flowering paradise, Wall and Owita found common ground in the triumphs and tragedies they shared. Both would admit it was an unlikely friendship. She was a fretter, consumed by things she could not control: her recurring cancer, her father’s Alzheimer’s, her mother’s stroke. He had a tranquility and acceptance that was mystifying in the face of all he had had to endure: a daughter left behind in Africa, a PhD in horticulture he couldn’t use, forcing him to subsist on part-time jobs, and, worst of all, the devastation and shame of being HIV-positive. Both had their shares of heartache over children and parents and life-threatening illnesses that challenged them in unimaginable ways. In this heartbreaking yet heartwarming paean to the joys of friendship and gardening, Wall crafts an elegiac tribute to an extraordinary man. --Carol Haggas

Review

 
“In this profoundly moving memoir, Owita teaches Wall how to find grace amid heartbreak and to accept that beauty exists because it is fleeting—as in her garden, as in life.” —People, 4 stars
 
“A perfect spring awakening.” —Good Housekeeping

“With her children grown and out of the house, Carol Wall is obsessed—perhaps overly so—with ripping out her azaleas. That is, until she meets a certain Giles Owita, Kenyan gardener, supermarket bagger, general-life philosopher and perhaps one of the most refined and gracious characters to ever hit the page (except that he’s real)… A warning for the shy: The basic goodness of Owita’s attitude may cause you to beam spontaneously as you read, leading to off looks from strangers at the coffee shop.” —Oprah.com
 
"No green thumb is required to enjoy the warmhearted pleasures of Carol Wall's moving memoir, Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening.... magnetically compelling ... Grace and gardening go hand-in-glove in this fine book about what really matters in life: friendship, kindness and watching a garden grow." —USA Today

"A pleasure to read. Wall’s bittersweet story of human kindness has universal appeal." —Kirkus Reviews

"I couldn’t put this book down. I found myself liking the principal characters from the opening pages, and my affection for them never wavered. If you enjoy inspirational memoirs or gardening books (or both), this moving account of a life-changing friendship is for you." —Bookpage

"A must-read memoir. On the surface, Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening: How I Learned the Unexpected Joy of a Green Thumb and an Open Heart by Carol Wall, is a gentle memoir about a friendship between a white woman in Roanoke, Virginia and her gardener from Kenya. But that description fails to capture the book's depth, its sometimes-raw emotions, nor its many surprising twists.... Both shocking and profoundly moving. This book is not just about gardening." —AARP blog
 
“In this heartbreaking yet heartwarming paean to the joys of friendship and gardening, Wall crafts an elegiac tribute to an extraordinary man.” —Booklist 

"[T]his memoir chronicl[es] the many lasting rewards garnered from an unexpected friendship..." —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“This memoir touches upon everything that is important in life. Not only is it beautifully written—I am also in awe of Carol Wall’s raw honesty and incredible courage.”—Kathleen Grissom, New York Times–bestselling author of The Kitchen House

“Carol Wall’s suspenseful tale of human frailty and courage is a marvel. In her garden, an unexpected bond slowly forms as two people from distant worlds help each other confront long-buried secrets and fears. Deeply personal, poetic, and brimming with humanity, this is a book of lasting grace.” —Steve Lopez, New York Times–bestselling author of The Soloist

“Carol Wall’s disarming memoir Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening is a poignant tale of an unlikely teacher and a doubting student, who, by bringing a neglected patch of ground back to life, reveal the secrets of reclaiming, restoring, and freeing a wounded soul. It is a generous story filled with grace enough to bring healing to the reader as well. An engaging personal and spiritual journey into life’s essential questions.” —Jonathan Odell, author of The Healing
 


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Customer Reviews

The characters are well developed and the story is nice too.
flittin
This is a story of life faced with fear, anger, hope, love, hope, and deepening understanding as days are lived from the roots up.
Carol J Fuhler
I read this book in one sitting because I couldn't put it down!
Sylvia

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Mary Ann VINE VOICE on January 1, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book review requires the greatest care not to spoil for the fortunate readers who opt to select it. The memoir starts strong and gets deeper by the paragraph, much like acquaintanceships that develop into profound friendships, and seemingly small daily developments that become absorbing and ultimately life-changing. I read it nonstop on New Year's Eve/New Years Day, and was touched each step of the way. One need not have the same set of challenges as the protagonists--given time, we all accumulate issues, like the sand in the bottom of the hourglass. We also learn to cope by watching others ahead of us on the journey. Mr. Owita and Carol have much to teach us, through no fault of their own.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Nancy Bondurant-Couch on April 6, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Owita’s Guide to Gardening by Carol Wall
There are plenty of reviews that will give you a summation of this wonderful book. Without repeating what others have said so well, let it be said that it is a true story which uses gardening as a substantive, as well as symbolic parallel to the lives of two people whose relationship evolves through their desire to beautify a yard. It is the story of physical and emotional struggles with illness, the ability to love in spite of fear and flaws, and a story which ultimately crafts deep lessons about living and loving.
I am not a voracious reader. I read a chapter or two and then the book sits on my bedside table for weeks at a time. Carol Wall wrote a book that invited me in to the first chapter, and then, as though she were laying open a spy novel, she had me questioning and wondering what would happen next. I devoured her book. I could not put it down. When I finished this beautifully told story in the wee hours of the morning with a pile of wasted tissues by my side, I knew I would pick it up and read it again.
Carol Wall’s book is the ONLY book that has ever had that effect on me. Her story is powerful. Her writing is clean and natural. The characters she introduces to us are undeniably human and vulnerable. The story of these characters opens to the reader as though a dear friend were sitting by your side sharing their deepest fears and darkest secrets. Indeed, Carol Wall has become a very dear friend to many readers of this book by revealing her life in such a way. To so many who carry the burdens of secrets, illness, and loss, this story may be a salve that can bring insight and comfort.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Rob Slaven TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 4, 2014
Format: Hardcover
As usual I received this book for free in exchange for a review, this time from Shelf Awareness. Also as usual I give my candid opinions below.

To summarize, this book is a memoir that is only remotely about gardening. Rather than focus on those things that we putter about with in the ground it's really a story of the relationships that we cultivate with others and the impact that those relationships have on our lives.

To the positive side of things, the author of this memoir is as brilliantly introspective and self-aware as any of a memoir author I've read in a long time. It has been my general observation that authors of memoirs seem to describe in painful detail how they stormed through the world and how they made a difference and why you should recognize their greatness in some way. In this case the author candidly describes how one simple man made a huge difference in her own life while being unafraid to lay out for all to see how she very easily could have missed out on what he had to offer.

Also to the positive, the book has much to say about society and how we look at others. I will avoid spoilers by resorting to generalities, but we see examples of unintentional prejudice based on race, socioeconomics, general appearance and all this from a woman who prides herself on being a champion against these prejudices. This book is a delightful example of those accidental judgments that we all make and the author is candid enough to share these with us. Finally, we do also find in this book a delightful example of humanity and weakness under what is otherwise a superhuman image. Proving finally and completely that no one is entirely what they seem whether that be positive or negative.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Wilhelmina Zeitgeist VINE VOICE on February 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening: How I Learned the Unexpected Joy of a Green Thumb and an Open Heart" By: Carol Wall is a wonderful story of the author, a lily white southern woman, who befriends a dark skinned man from Kenya. Who happens to be an excellent gardener. And bags groceries at the supermarket. As it happens, Ms. Wall has a garden that is in such bad shape that she decides to hire Mister Owita, a neighbor's gardener, to be her gardener as well.

As the garden Mister Owita so tenderly cares for comes back to life in a magnificent fashion, Ms. Wall finds herself transforming as her heart opens up and she learns some valuable lessons about life. And about opening up about secrets, as does Mister Owita. The two form a bond of trust and friendship that is rare and beautiful.

The writing is so tender and loving. I had a difficult time putting it down, even when I finished it. Beautiful and poetic it will win a place in your heart.
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