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Paths of Desire: The Passions of a Suburban Gardener Hardcover – February 3, 2004

4.5 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"Desire paths," writes Browning, are defined by how people actually move from place to place, whether in physical space or emotionally and psychically. Browning (Around the House and in the Garden) recounts the creation of two desire paths: a "long and winding" one through her restored half-acre suburban garden, and an equally meandering one from the desolation of a broken marriage to the joyful rebuilding of both her garden and her life. Browning's century-old home may not be typical of today's suburbs, but what she contends with is. Raccoons, opossums and "neurotically evolved" skunks invade at night, as do beer-drinking teenagers. Dogs yap, horns honk and leaf blowers "grind all day." Warring with neighbors over "trees and walls and fences and garbage bins" is constant. Although "the suburban garden starts its life as a construction site," it is also a place where "nothing is impossible, and the only limitations on what you can do are your own will and imagination." Still, one needs "Helpful Men," a fraternity of roofers, masons, landscapers and tree surgeons who communicate by cell phone-almost exclusively with one another-and do not clean up. As Browning comes to rely more and more on "the Helpful Men" to fix the disorder in her garden, she gradually learns not to depend on "the True Love" to free her from the grasp of a rampant, flowerless wisteria and awaken her with a kiss. Instead, she discovers that her sons are showing "promising signs of usefulness" and sets out on an "endless" path in a "garden that springs from the heart."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

People frequently spring into action only when their backs are against the wall. In Browning's case, the wall would actually have to collapse before she would begin to make much-needed major changes in her garden, and in her life. When the downpour of a sudden storm undermines the foundation of a beloved garden wall, Browning is forced to deal with the daunting consequences of ruined plants, altered vistas, and expensive reconstruction. Contrary to her lofty position as editor in chief of the venerable House and Garden magazine, Browning lives a down-to-earth existence in suburbia, replete with the problematic noisy and noisome neighbors, confounding critters, and trespassing teenagers so familiar to her readers. Such obstacles present creative and practical challenges whose solutions only reveal themselves when Browning ultimately learns to follow the paths of her own heart's desire. Just as her garden must be, Browning's intimately personal chronicle is filled with lines of breathtaking beauty, simple in their understated elegance yet profound in their impact on the human psyche. Carol Haggas
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (February 3, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743246659
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743246651
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,906,804 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on February 26, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had read a review of her book in the NYTimes and am a fan of the magazine she edits, so I bought the book. I fell in love with the story of collapse, confusion and renewal. Frankly the metaphor of the garden served as many a problem in one's own life. Wrap it all up in gorgeous prose and a compelling (yes! she makes a garden wall collapse and the ensuing drama exciting!) story and I had a book , I couldn't put down. Romantic and sometimes funny it's a good read for the gardener and non-gardener alike.
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By A Customer on February 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Delightful and informative. The perfect book to start reading now, as the weather starts to improve and we begin to think about the gardening work awaiting us. Dominique Browning inspired me to indulge my dreams of working in my yard. Having finished the book, I've moved on to poring over seed and nursery catalogs, just like Browning herself. The perfect remedy to the gray of late winter. I now feel as if spring is right around the corner. And there's so much to do!
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By A Customer on February 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Sure, there's some great gardening advice in here, but mostly it's a charming story. The neighbors, the kids, the fix-it men, the romantic crush. I got sucked right in. You're bound to recognize your own plot of land, as well as your own suburban existence. And Dominique Browning is a gorgeous writer, with a great sense of humor. You don't need to know a thing about gardening to enjoy this terrific book.
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Format: Hardcover
As a recent transplant to suburbia and a novice gardener, I found comfort and inspiration in Browning's memoir. Her depictions of her garden-in-progress are fascinating. At times her garden seems enchanted, barely controllable, taking on a life of its own. (Especially that wisteria! I'm now warily eyeing my own twig of wisteria, which is sending out a few ominous shoots). Browning finds the extraordinary just steps away from her door. Passages about a simple pathway or a stand of trees are mesmerizing to read about. I was reminded of growing up in suburbia and finding wonder and mystery in yards that today -- or at least before reading "Paths of Desire" -- I might view as unremarkable. Browning has helped me rediscover some of that sense of wonder in the suburban landscape, and I no longer lament my retreat from the city. Her book has shown me how my own yard is a canvas filled with possibility, and yet to some degree it will always elude my control -- an idea that fascinates me even more.

Browning's prose style -- at times restrained, at other times lyrical, and often shot through with whimsy -- is as lovely as her garden.
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Format: Paperback
This book had me from the start, when Dominique describes how an old retaining wall collapses in her yard, floods the area and destroys many of her shrubs and flowers. The ensuing work afterwards is this book, as she goes from grief over the collapse (which she compares to her divorce) to acceptance and then renewal (as with her boyfriend TrueLove). While she has the wall rebuilt, she reflects on incidents with her former husband and children in the house, and especially the garden, and how over the years she still holds on to all the memories, even as certain trees are diagnosed with deadly diseases.

This small garden, filled with raccoons, oppossums, birds and wayyward teens is the story of life in suburbia. Stubborn neighbors, messy neighbors, nosy neighbors and helpful neighbors are all part of the deal of living in suburbia. The trees and flowers are just flavorings. But then there are memories of the growing boys, former pets, old trees, dying trees, annoying rusty old vehicles from the neighbors, and menacing trees hanging over from the obstinate neighbors. What homeowner hasn't had to deal with any of this?

This book is a delight even for the non-gardener. It's a perfect gift for the avid gardener who's been tending to the same garden for many years.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
ms. browning is a talented writer, you can actually identify with her frustrations. miss the magazine she edited. don't know if it is still being published or not. would love to tell her about the camellia she described in the book. think it may have been " professor charles. s. sargent". the description would fit. since there are about thirty to fifty thousand named varieties, can't be sure. did wonder if it survived the collapsed wall. anyway, a great read.
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Format: Paperback
This is a true story about the author's life and landscaping a lovely homestead in Weschester Co., NY. Ms. Browning can turn a pretty phrase and she certainly did a lot with her property. I don't know...parts were just too precious: her boyfriend throughout is the True Love; yes, 230 pages of that. The contractors who did the actual work were the Helpful Men. A little on the condescending side, for my taste. On and on through many other cutesy titles and Capitalized Names...Oh Dear! Line drawings are very well done and highlight the text.
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