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The Abbot's Garden: a novelette by [Baker, Stewart C]
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The Abbot's Garden: a novelette Kindle Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Length: 56 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
Page Flip: Enabled

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Product Details

  • File Size: 1357 KB
  • Print Length: 56 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publication Date: August 13, 2014
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00MQ75IN4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,085,548 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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By Taka on October 14, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
This charming novelette actually comprises two tales: one longish short story of about 40 pages and a flash fiction of about 4 pages, both inspired by Japanese culture. They're highly engaging and satisfying to read, even for someone originally from that culture. Whenever a story that takes place in a different culture is written by an outsider, there’s always the fear of abuse and misunderstanding, of caricaturing—that is, the possibility of cultural appropriation. But Baker’s respect for the culture is clearly seen in the loving care he takes in depicting Japan in its cultural specificity and faithfulness. The reader knows they’re in the hands of a skilled writer who knows what he is doing.

Cultural note aside, if you like or have any interest in Sci-fi, Japan, or fantasy—and/or heard of Borges, The King of Elfland's Daughter, H.G. Well's The Time Machine—then this is a story for you.

The main story, told in diary format, is engaging and moves along at a good clip, but the storytelling is only the beginning; what Baker excels at is depicting scenes with the precision and vividness of haiku, coupled with the creation of a convincing voice he creates throughout the work. Just listen to the comforting rhythm of the voice, the imagery in this passage:

"In the city of Hakodate, where we have taken rooms at an inn, Western-style homes loom above drifts of snow as tall as a man. The streets are cleared, and people rush along them bundled in many layers of clothing, their breath steaming white from their mouths.

Outside the city the snow is broken only by the green of pines and stark browns of bleak myrtles. Ryouji is pleased with the vastness of the place. The woman is impatient—eager, she claims, to be home.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The Abbott’s Garden by Stewart Baker tells the story of Ryouji, a Japanese man who becomes obsessed with contacting his deceased wife Akemi in another dimension, through careful manipulation of a strange garden he has built on the grounds of a monastery.

The story is written in the form of a journal kept by the Abbot Ichiou, who takes on a personal responsibility for Ryouji’s spiritual welfare and struggles to break through what he believes is Ryouji’s delusion. This was a brilliant choice of point of view; the abbot’s voice is engaging, and through this device Mr. Baker preserves a sense of mystery surrounding the actions and thoughts of Ryouji. Ichiou is the perfect filter through which to watch the events of the story unfold.

When Akemi does indeed appear to rejoin Ryouji, the abbot refuses to believe she is the real Akemi. He follows as she and Ryouji leave the monastery, undertaking a journey to find a new place to create an even more elaborate garden, one which will restore Akemi to her own dimension and merge all paths of reality, keeping the good in each and eliminating the bad.

Mr. Baker has talent for evocative imagery, which he uses to reinforce his theme. The following passage is an excellent example:

“The koi pond feeds into a small stream which does not cross the garden north to south, as it should, nor even east to west. Instead it makes a circle, feeding in turn back into the pond, where some number of fish glitter and splash. I tried to count them only once, but they seemed to split off and join into each other in ways I could not quite believe were caused just by ripples in the water. It made me dizzy, and when I looked away I saw quite clearly reflected in the pond a double of myself, eyes wide in horror.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A charming sci-fi novelette that plays with the notion of time manipulation by a human protagonist. I enjoyed the writing style and themes. Rebecca Drouilhet
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Format: Kindle Edition
Someone gave me this to read because they liked it. The first story is told in a journal format from the point of view of Abbot Ichiou, as he tries to help a grieving man devastated by the loss of his wife. The man goes to outrageous lengths to get her back despite all Abbot Ichiou's help and suffers from his choice, to the Abbot's regret.
The short story included is also set in Japan, but more of a historical piece than modern day. A daughter who is told she will marry the heir to the throne rebels against her warlord father. Her rebellion comes at a price she had no clue she would pay.
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