- 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 (88 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #868,929 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Memory Garden Paperback – May 6, 2014
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"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
"[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 www.maryrickert.net.
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Top customer reviews
There's magic. There are ghosts. But these aren't handled in a cliched manner. Their involvement and intrusions are organic and not always obvious.
I'm leery of saying too much because it's one of those novels that you move into and live with the characters. I will instead relay two significant facts. First, although my wife and I have very different tastes in fiction, we BOTH loved this book. Second, it's a book that has colored my world and it springs to mind whenever I see an empty pair of shoes, apparently abandoned, but potentially serving, waiting, to be someone's planter for flowers.
World Fantasy and Crawford award winning short story author M. Rickert’s debut novel, The Memory Garden, is a book that leaves this amateur reviewer keenly aware of his inadequacies when it comes to command of the English language. Words such as “enchanting” and “magical” should be utilized, along with many of their descriptive cousins, yet I fear the easy dismissal that these words might cause those worn out from the overzealous hyping of all things in this commercial age.
Dismissing a debut this lovely would be a shame.
The Memory Garden is a book rooted in seasons, those in the world outside our doors and those that form the cyclical patterns of our lives. It is a love story, though not of standard romantic fare, that celebrates family and friendship and the importance of looking beyond the veil of our own assumptions and prejudices. It is a novel that will stir your hunger for good food, beautiful gardens, and lasting relationships.
I have to thank Mssrs. Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe, along with author Mary Rickert, for their recent podcast discussion [on the Coode Street podcast] of this debut novel. As I walked my dog on a cool Spring night late last week and listened to them talk about The Memory Garden, I got the distinct impression that this was a novel that I needed to read immediately. Call it intuition if you will, but these rare occurrences of book-related clarity invariably result in the kind of meaningful book-to-reader relationship that we long for every time we open a book and begin that journey.
The Memory Garden centers on an older woman, Nan, and her fifteen-year-old daughter, Bay, the girl she adopted as her own after Bay was left in a shoebox on Nan’s porch. As Bay begins to tread the border between childhood and womanhood, she begins to suspect that there are things she does not know, little knowing that the secrets she is unaware of are much larger than she could imagine. Nan has been hoarding secrets for some time, hoping to provide Bay the protection made necessary because of the evils in this world. But Nan has been keeping secrets for far longer than Bay’s fifteen years, and as age advances Nan knows that she cannot hold back the truth forever, especially when there is a chance that the truth holds the promise of freedom.
Mary Rickert has created a verdant landscape in The Memory Garden, inhabited by flowers and herbs that make the senses come alive, and characters so developed they will charm you, and exasperate you, and ultimately win you over. There is an opportunity for stories with a fantastical nature to become so ensconced in the fantasy realm that they lose the cadence of real life. Mary Rickert’s world is an authentic, if somewhat enchanted, place peopled with memorable characters who make an impression because they exist in a genuine manner. When Nan’s two childhood friends come to visit, the relationship between these three older women results in an exploration of past and present that gives a story shape to Rickert’s prose.
Mary Rickert begins each chapter with a plant or flower or herb and a brief description of its meanings and uses. She then weaves that knowledge into the story, creating a landscape that the reader can see so clearly with the mind’s eye. The Memory Garden is a sensuous book, replete with descriptions of sights, sounds, and smells that carry the reader away and characters that you cannot bear to part with at the novel’s end.
Mary Rickert shares her own reluctance to say ‘goodbye’ to these characters in her Note from the Author at the end of the novel. Having spent my Memorial Day weekend with them, it is a sentiment I understand all too well.
No author, editor or publisher knows the secret formula that will make a book connect with readers in a profound manner. If they did, our every reading opportunity would be a reading experience. There are just some novels that come to you at the right time, and The Memory Garden‘s Spring release could not be more timely. But it is so much more than good scheduling by the publishers as there are books aplenty that make for inspired reading during the early growing season. The Memory Garden is a perfect blend of mystery and delight, eerie expectation and skillful revelation. There is something at once familiar and unsettling about the individual and collective journeys these characters are on. For a first novel it is highly impressive to see how Mary Rickert keeps you guessing about the many secrets hinted at throughout the story. At roughly 300 pages, Mary Rickert does not waste a word, a skill no doubt developed from years of writing short stories that have garnered both nominations and awards.
There is much I have not told you about The Memory Garden, which is a calculated choice designed to avoid misconceptions that might keep you from this experience. While listening to Strahan, Wolfe and Rickert talk about the novel, I couldn’t help but think about Among Others and the ways in which I enjoyed how Jo Walton’s magical realm encroached upon the mundane world. I had the sense that something similar may be at work here, and I was rewarded with a story that touched me in familiar fashion. Do not misunderstand, the stories could not be more different. They do, however, share a kinship in their ability to use literary and genre conventions to examine the importance of our relationships while maintaining an effective story structure.
The Memory Garden turned out to be the book I didn’t realize I was craving following the busyness of the past few months. It is a special accomplishment and I thank Mary Rickert, and those who influenced her, for going back and giving the novel format another try. This one is a winner.
There were bits and pieces of this book I really enjoyed, but overall I found myself struggling to get through it. Parts of the story felt very disconnected from other parts, making me feel a bit disjointed when reading it. Still, I did enjoy parts of the book. Some of the reunion scenes were touching and you could feel the hilarious spirit of the group. Just the writing style was not my favorite.