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The Cactus Hardcover
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Susan Green is a stickler about breaking her regimented routines. She is set in her ways and content living on her own in her one bedroom flat. It will take an unexpected pregnancy at age 45, the death of her mother and the ensuing battle with her brother over her estate, all circumstances beyond her control, in order for her to finally let go. Susan is angry that her deadbeat, unemployed brother Edward, who she has never shared a close relationship with, has been allowed to stay in their mother's house until he is ready to move. Hoping to use the money from the sale of the house more productively, she decides to challenge the will. Her unexpected pregnancy and this lawsuit, sets off a chain of events that leads Susan to people and relationships that influences her life in ways she could never have expected. From her neighbor Kate, now a single parent with two small children, her quirky boyfriend and the father of her baby, to her brother's charismatic friend Rob, a vegetarian landscaper. Throughout this journey, Susan is a delight to follow, as she changes the way she thinks and behaves in a realistic and believable way.
Susan, like the cactus she loves to collect, is prickly on the outside and initially not the easiest of characters to care about. As we come to learn more about her childhood, through carefully placed flashbacks to the past, we have a better understanding of why she evolved into the control freak we meet in the beginning of the book. The Cactus is warm without being sappy...it's sweet and a lot of fun with a bit of a twist to the ending.
Susan Green is a rigid, standoffish rule follower who feels safely in control of her life and future until an unexpected turn knocks over the first domino, challenging her to question everything she believed to be true. Sarah Haywood takes the reader on Susan’s journey from an uncompromising, prickly and insulated cactus to a joyful flower opening to life’s possibilities. As the cover tagline says: It’s never too late to bloom.
Emotional and full of humanity, I found myself chuckling out loud at Susan’s thoughts, language and actions; she has a humor of which she’s unaware. I completely adored her even when I was shaking my head or rolling my eyes at her decisions and logic. As her story unfolds and we learn more about her childhood and upbringing, we are better able to understand her way of being in the world and to empathize.
Fiercely feminist and independent to a fault, Susan and her transformative story show us that true character shines through during life’s biggest changes and surprises. I appreciated the friendship and discussions between Susan --- with her hard-and-fast, unwavering definition of feminism and her need for control --- and her neighbor, Kate. Bit by bit, Kate infiltrates Susan’s defenses and helps her step out of her regimented box. She and an unlikely ally, Rob, walk alongside Susan as she confronts extreme conflict with her brother, the alcoholism and tumult of her past, and a secret that was never intended to be exposed.
THE CACTUS is richly layered with generosity and avarice, birth and death, compromise and obstinacy. We experience the push and pull within families, both nuclear and extended, and the pursuit, whether accidental or intentional, toward self-acceptance.
For writers, THE CACTUS is a fantastic study in creating memorable, distinctive characters and in developing their growth and arc toward transformation. The characters’ goals and motivations are clear and in conflict with one another while being soundly rooted in their backstory, which offers readers empathy and understanding. It underscores the relevancy in real life of having compassion for others across circumstances. One never knows what is held deep within or what pushes someone to act in a particular manner.
While distinct and wonderful in its own right, THE CACTUS is reminiscent of Gail Honeyman’s ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE. Both give us wholly curious, original characters to remember long after the last page is turned.
I truly loved this story and can recommend it without reservation. As a bonus, the cover is gorgeous.
Reviewed by Leah DeCesare
Most recent customer reviews
The cover. It is beautiful! This was an interesting story to follow, not because anything HUGE happened, but because the main...Read more