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on April 6, 2014
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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VINE VOICEon 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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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.

The only negative I would put forth is that the story does at times grow a bit soft and saccharine sweet. These occurrences, however, are vanishingly brief and probably only of note because I'm a guy reading a somewhat female-oriented book.

In summary, this is the sort of memoir that is an example to other writers. It is candid, coherent, honest and the author has generously shared the lessons she's learned from her friend. It presents a wonderful view of human frailty from the viewpoint of a woman that we could all learn from as we deal with the world around us and the people in it. I'd buy her a cup of coffee any time.
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VINE VOICEon 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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on August 26, 2014
This book would have read better if it had been more about Mister Owita's gardening (literally and figuratively) and less about the author's own insecurities and challenges. Owita was tangential to Wall's own story and her story was told from a "poor me" position that I found more annoying than interesting. Owita befriended Wall but his troubles were secondary to hers for most of the book and, proportionally, Owita's troubles were much larger. I broke one of my own reading rules and finished this book in the vain hope that the balance of the author's interest would, eventually, move from her battle with breast cancer to Owita's battle with discrimination, his inability to get a job commensurate with his education (PhD), his secret battle with AIDS and his sorrow over a daughter trapped in Africa and unable to join her family. All the elements of a truly rich and heart-rending story are here but the author never really engaged me in Owita's life because she kept whining about hers.
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on January 25, 2014
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is an utterly gorgeous book. I haven't enjoyed a book in a while quite the way I enjoyed this one. The story of a growing friendship between Mister Owita, a gardener from Kenya, and the author, a middle-class woman dealing with a lot on her plate. We have secrets, bondingm faith and the rarity of deeply cemented friendship. I love this book. If you don't even peek into it, your loss. Thanks Amazon Vine for this book.
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VINE VOICEon January 15, 2014
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Those who enjoy memoir's that nourish the soul can't not afford to miss this story. What starts out as a desire to green up her overgrown and embarrassing yard, yields the product of deep abiding friendship that few people experience once in a lifetime. The author soon becomes the student of her gardener not only in gardening, but in life's lessons as they travel a unique road together.

Mrs. Carol Wall hires Mr. Giles Owita to spruce up her forlorn yard. Prior to his first task, the trimming of an overgrown tree, she provides him pictures on the steps of pruning. He listens patiently as she talks and once she is done, he proceeds to trim it his own way. Initially, angry, Mrs. Wall soon appreciates the tree's beauty, realizing it is better than that which was pictured. So, little by little Mr. Owita is given the opportunity to handle bigger tasks at his discretion.

When she delivers a progress report to her neighbor, who hired Mr. Owita as an employee at the local nursery and garden center, Mrs. Wall is shocked to learn Mr. Owita has a PhD in an Agriculture Specialty. He has been unsuccessful in obtaining a professorship at the local, world renowned University program. He is gallant when she apologizes and their friendship deepens as time progresses. Her anxiety gone, both her trust and respect for him increases, their friendship blossoms in mutual appreciation.

Together, they travel the road of grave serious illness. They encourage and uplift the other through their shared faith. They share their deepest emotional struggles without the fear of judgment or reproof as well as similar past losses of family members and what might have been. They offer mutual comfort, as only one that has experienced these challenges can do. Just as a garden has seasons, so do their experiences mirror the life cycle.

Their relationship supersedes the employer/employee relationship, skin color (Mrs. Wall is Caucasian and Mr. Owita is African), different cultural views (Mr. Owita is a high ranking leader in his native tribe in Kenya, while Mrs. Wall was raised in the Deep South), and status (she is probably upper middle class, while he and his wife struggle with multiple jobs to make ends meet). Theses differences are overridden by their similarities: they are both teachers; they both love learning; they are both cherish their shared spiritual faith; they both seek to learn the deeper meaning in life's most important lessons; and understand the meaning and value of true friendship.

This is a story that remains with you long after you read the last sentence. It is a celebration of life and focusing on the positive despite the negative. Just as roses provide a beautiful fragrance, they still have thorns.

I highly recommend this story. It will give you pause to consider how you may apply Mr. Owita's wisdom and strength to your own life.
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VINE VOICEon December 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Easily and interestingly written, the book is a pleasant read. I like the naturalness of the writing, it flows and I turned the pages quickly to find out what was happening next. Not that it's a mystery or adventure story, it's a "human" story. It's real and I think most readers will recognize the emotions and feelings discussed, and connect with the problems expressed.

Two people, almost total opposites, become friends, supporters and guardians through some of life's most distressing events. Their friendship grows over the care of a garden, just as the flowers they plant. Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening talks about what fills us up in life and what causes us to become empty. It talks about family, friendships, loneliness and companionship; sorrow, grief and happiness. I enjoyed the book and will be sharing it with friends.
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VINE VOICEon December 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening by Carol Wall
This memoir traces the growth of a deep friendship between two people, Mister Owita, a gardener from Kenya, and the author, a middle class lady dealing with fear and her dread of cancer returning. Married to other people, their platonic friendship grows and they both reveal tragic secrets from their pasts which damage them today, even as they enjoy family life and good things. The author’s fear and temper cause problems in her marriage, and Mister Owita faces his own sorrows with courage as he shows Wall a path to improving her own life. I enjoy the way his gardening expertise is deep and how they both rely on some Christian faith in their journeys. I read this book in two days, rare for me, since it is so compelling and I wanted to know more about these people.
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VINE VOICEon January 16, 2014
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
As one who was raised by parents who owned a retail nursery, I was interewsted from the outset in this book. As it turns out, it isn't a gardining book at all, but it is a heartfelt story of the friendship betweeen two who would seem unlikely to be friends. Although this is a memoir, not a novel, there's still a whole lot here that I need to be careful not to spoil. So suffice it to say that this is a worthwhile read and even with the sadness is uplifting. Definitely recommended.
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