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The Memory Garden Paperback – May 6, 2014

72 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Fans of Alice Hoffman and Sarah Addison Allen will find a new passion in this atmospheric, eerie, and utterly beautiful debut. Mary Rickert walked me through a witch's garden by moonlight, perfectly invoking a magic place where lies smell like salt, memories taste of ash and honey, and ghosts whisper their last secrets to a girl on the verge of womanhood. THE MEMORY GARDEN is a mother daughter love story, soaked with intrigue and seasoned with both regret and the most lovely kind of breathless hope. Don't miss this one." - Joshilyn Jackson, New York Times bestselling author of Someone Else's Love Story

"A potent brew of guilty secrets and tragic histories, but also of enduring friendship and love. Add a pinch of the botanical. Serve on a luminous night faintly reminiscent of A Midsummer Night's Eve. A totally charming, totally engaging story told by Rickert, a magus of the first order. Magic in every line." - Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves and The Jane Austen Book Club

"Rickert writes with a blend of poetical language and dark suspense... 'The Memory Garden' is a tale of tragedy, hope and kinship." - The Washington Post

"The Memory Garden is a lovely book of women, friendship, sadness and healing, and it is genuinely uplifting. Like the garden of its title, this is a book to take in slowly, to spend time in, to wander through; you'll likely find yourselves the better for it." - NPR Books

"A wise portrayal of the way women relate to each other, of how communities deal with their outsiders, of how secrets are held among friends, with the strands of narrative united by the garden and its flowers. But it's also a superb fantasy novel. The supernatural elements may be as carefully measured and restrained as in a Graham Joyce novel... but the magic is real." - The Chicago Tribune

"Unwinds the magic and mystery of a mother and daughter and three old friends, all at the fragile juncture of truth and forgiveness. Rickert can build an audience that will marvel at her witchy talents." - Publishers Weekly starred review

"[A] bewitching marvel of a book." - BookPage

"With its fairy-tale qualities, this debut novel is sure to charm ... Readers who enjoy the magical realism of novels by Sarah Addison Allen, Laura Esquivel, and Alice Hoffman will savor Rickert's mesmerizing and magical novel of friendship and family." - Library Journal

"Mary Rickert's debut novel is absolutely stunning. An emotionally complex story bridges the divide between the past and the present, between generations, and between age-old friendships compromised by a web of secrets and lies. Be prepared to fall under this novel's strange and sensuous spell." - Christopher Barzak, author of One for Sorrow

"Rickert has created a slew of magical and unforgettable characters that will steal readers' breath away. This is a great story that must be devoured in one sitting." - RT Book Reviews

About the Author

Mary Rickert has a Masters of Fine Arts from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has published numerous short stories. This is her first novel. She lives with her husband in Wisconsin. Visit her at

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (May 6, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402297122
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402297120
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #455,019 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Book of Secrets on May 19, 2014
Format: Paperback
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

THE MEMORY GARDEN is a curious coming-of-age story threaded through with magical realism, unsettling memories, and herbal folklore. At the heart of the story is Bay, a teenage girl being raised by her adoptive mother Nan, an elderly woman thought to be a witch. Nan has spent many years harboring guilt over a tragedy from her girlhood. Just after Bay’s 15th birthday, Nan invites the two friends who share her dark secret to visit, hoping to put the ghosts of the past to rest.

I was very intrigued by the premise of THE MEMORY GARDEN, but unfortunately the story and characters never quite clicked with me. The book had a slow start, and much of what was going on was hard for me to follow. After the big build up, the revelation at the end was a bit disappointing. I also wish the prose had flowed smoother than it did. The odd, choppy dialogue between characters didn’t help my confusion.

That said, there were parts of the book I enjoyed. I loved the strange atmosphere the author created with Nan’s rustic old house, her eccentric garden of mismatched shoe planters, and the restless spirits drawn to Bay and Nan. I also liked how the book highlighted the friendship between Nan, Ruthie, and Mavis that couldn’t be broken, even after decades apart.

Even though this book didn’t work for me, readers who like quirky tales, ghost stories, and magical realism might want to give it a try.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Avid Reviewer TOP 500 REVIEWER on May 6, 2014
Format: Paperback
The Memory Garden by Mary Rickert is a thoughtful, brooding and expressive tale about the fear, anxiety and disquiet of aging with all its encumbrances and inconveniences. A searing picture has been painted of the pain and discomfort that comes along with aging, dreadful in its totality but certainly inevitable. What, however, is to be noted is that it is not just about the negatives in life. Mary Rickert’s story is also about the vivacity, strength and faith in the power of bonding that can withstand even the severest of test.

It is the story of Nan who grew plants in shoes thrown in by people who fails to understand her weird ways. But at the ripe age of 78, Nan is not particularly worried about what others think as she has her own worry – her adopted daughter, Bay, who is only fifteen years old. Life is not easy for Bay. She is friendless, unwanted, and derided. Her school mates taunt her and mock her because of the strange and peculiar house she lives in and the strange ways of Nan. An angry and hurt Bay demands an explanation, and Nan has to tell her everything, and how it all came to pass.

It all began long ago when Nan, Mavis and Ruthie were fast friends with a common secret. The loss of Eve, another friend, severely tested their friendship and failed to endure. They haven’t seen each other in over fifty years, but now Nan must talk to her estranged friends. When Ruthie and Mavis turn up, it stirs up a lot of things instead of ending the confusion. Bay lives in constant fear, with ghosts haunting her. Ruthie and Mavis also have secrets of their own, never known to Nan. And to add to the confusion, Eve’s great niece shows up claiming to be writing a book.
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Format: Paperback
I came to The Memory Garden a fan of M. Rickert's short stories from years ago. I hadn't read a story by her in a long, long time, but as soon as we encounter the teenager Bay, and her garden and past-obsessed Nana, it was like curling up in front of a fireplace with a steaming herb tea.

Rickert has a dreaming quality to her characters that makes them as loveable as a befuddled great aunt in the nursing home. Nana is elderly, and her two former best friends finally reuniting with her long after their terrible secret forced them apart, are also a bit vague.

"Are you having goose pimples? Did someone just walk on your grave? Isn't it just the sweetest place? Can't you just picture it with a little garden of daffodils? Deer won't eat daffodils, you know, but they love tulips. And some rocking chairs and wind chimes?"

This quality was atmospheric and homey in her short stories, but in this novel, some times you loose the thread of the conversation. And basically, this novel is one, long conversation about Nana's secrets, who Bay thinks she is, and how the three friends all don't really see each other clearly.

It's a book to sit with and savor, as the characters savor a flower-themed meal in the book (that had my mouth watering) of chicken with rose-petal sauce and curried dahlia lillies, calendula biscuits, and lavendar-goat cheese stuffaed dates.

And tucked within the story are illuminated moments like this one:

"The snow falls, and Nan feels strangely light. She might at any moment rise out of her clogs and fly above her house and garden, like a sparrow.
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