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The Memory Garden: An award-winning fantasy of loyalty, family, and witches Paperback – May 6, 2014

4.0 out of 5 stars 81 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"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

"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

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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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: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #265,673 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is BEAUTIFUL. Captivating. The best sort of witches you can imagine. Deeply rooted in wonderful garden and food imagery. Incredibly important -- this is a book about women and friendships, and the history of how the rights of women affected friendships. It's about motherhood, and childhood, and about secrets and how much they can hold back and damage you. It's about beauty. SO beautifully written. Like poetry, like a gorgeous perfect glass of wine, like chocolate. It is not surprising to me that a writer of Mary Rickert's experience wrote her first novel so skillfully and brilliantly, with none of those 'first book' problems, but the lack of surprise did not make it any less delightful. Buy this for your sister, your mother, your best girlfriend. THIS BOOK IS WONDERFUL.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I really wanted to love this book. The idea is enticing; elderly witches gather one last time, a young witch coming of age, a magic system based on plants and flowers, old secrets, ghosts, but the execution is painful. While I love magical realism, I don't feel this is a very good example. Rickert paints beautiful scenes but the dialogue stays just vague and brief enough to be annoying and combined with the use of third person, hopping among the characters is dizzying. It was especially frustrating during the day of the dinner party which seems to last for over half the book and where everyone is high on flowers. Overall, it felt like a outline for a really good book that I'd still like to read.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It is disappointing to sit down to write a review after a satisfying reading experience only to discover that the words that most readily leap to mind are those so stripped of meaning by overuse that they are rendered virtually powerless. Such is the nature of the hyperbolic overuse of adjectives.

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.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
To compare this author's writing to Alice Hoffman is misleading. Hoffman's writing is effortlessly magical and lyrical. This author tried too hard to make it magical and, except for the first couple of chapters, it just didn't work. The writing style is stilted yet chaotic. I expected to love this book because magical realism is my favorite genre, and all the elements were there to make this a wonderful story, but somehow the author just missed. I would probably read another book by Mary Rickert, but I'll check it out from the library.
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