From Publishers Weekly
"Desire paths," writes Browning, are defined by how people actually move from place to place, whether in physical space or emotionally and psychically. Browning (Around the House and in the Garden) recounts the creation of two desire paths: a "long and winding" one through her restored half-acre suburban garden, and an equally meandering one from the desolation of a broken marriage to the joyful rebuilding of both her garden and her life. Browning's century-old home may not be typical of today's suburbs, but what she contends with is. Raccoons, opossums and "neurotically evolved" skunks invade at night, as do beer-drinking teenagers. Dogs yap, horns honk and leaf blowers "grind all day." Warring with neighbors over "trees and walls and fences and garbage bins" is constant. Although "the suburban garden starts its life as a construction site," it is also a place where "nothing is impossible, and the only limitations on what you can do are your own will and imagination." Still, one needs "Helpful Men," a fraternity of roofers, masons, landscapers and tree surgeons who communicate by cell phone-almost exclusively with one another-and do not clean up. As Browning comes to rely more and more on "the Helpful Men" to fix the disorder in her garden, she gradually learns not to depend on "the True Love" to free her from the grasp of a rampant, flowerless wisteria and awaken her with a kiss. Instead, she discovers that her sons are showing "promising signs of usefulness" and sets out on an "endless" path in a "garden that springs from the heart."
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People frequently spring into action only when their backs are against the wall. In Browning's case, the wall would actually have to collapse before she would begin to make much-needed major changes in her garden, and in her life. When the downpour of a sudden storm undermines the foundation of a beloved garden wall, Browning is forced to deal with the daunting consequences of ruined plants, altered vistas, and expensive reconstruction. Contrary to her lofty position as editor in chief of the venerable House and Garden
magazine, Browning lives a down-to-earth existence in suburbia, replete with the problematic noisy and noisome neighbors, confounding critters, and trespassing teenagers so familiar to her readers. Such obstacles present creative and practical challenges whose solutions only reveal themselves when Browning ultimately learns to follow the paths of her own heart's desire. Just as her garden must be, Browning's intimately personal chronicle is filled with lines of breathtaking beauty, simple in their understated elegance yet profound in their impact on the human psyche. Carol HaggasCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved