Sample Reads

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TIME IN A GARDEN—We all do battle with stony ground and unseasonable dry spells over the years. At sixty-two, I’ve had my share. To survive—even grow—beyond those difficult droughts of the soul, we learn to root out our share of quack grass, turn over spadefuls of spent or decimated ground and plant again. Though we may not call ourselves gardeners, it is the human experience. […] It is spring again, at least by the calendar—April and perfect weather for staying home hiding out under the covers, sleeping in. I choose instead to risk, to get out there and cultivate hope in the form of those ephemeral wisps of green shooting up from the ground. (2006 best-seller, “a must-read for the contemplative gardener.”) HYPERLINK: BOOK CLUB QUESTIONS
GARDEN OF EVE—Grief changes everything. My time in the garden has become a perpetual winter. All around me I sense a colorless wasteland, glacial and dark. By the calendar, life goes on and the seasons pursue their course. Suns rise early, set late. Ground thaws. The earth’s magnificent garden stirs and buds and bursts into exuberant bloom. And still the heart remains locked in that frozen world, powerless to grow, much less to flower. [. . .] If there was a rock bottom, I had yet to find it. (“Inspired language. . .beautiful characters as remarkable as the setting.” “A lovely book and a no-nonsense inspirational one.” FIVE STARS – Midwest Book Review)   HYPERLINK: BOOK CLUB QUESTIONS

StemcoverthumbnailFROM THE TENDER STEM — “Love grows from tender stems, but once rooted is tenacious. Gardener, cultivate it well. From it comes flowers of enduring beauty.” The saga of garden writer Eve Brennerman continues as she makes a pact with herself to rediscover life at its fullest. Third in the Life in the Garden series, the novel is a  love song to the power of rediscovering what grounds us…whatever our age or stage in life.   As Eve writes, “I have got to believe we are never too old to learn.   HYPERLINK: BOOK CLUB QUESTIONS

VOX HUMANA: The Human Voice — A day shy of two weeks after my abrupt change in status from Char Howard civil servant to Char Howard Reluctant retiree, I left Philadelphia for parts West, my hometown of Hope, Pennsylvania. The heavens were weeping at the prospect. I had cried myself out days ago. It was hard either to laugh or cry in my poor hatchback, crammed to the roof with house plants, as I plodded along on autopilot behind the moving truck. From rising to setting sun, Pennsylvania is one very long state—its diagonal from the Atlantic to the Great Lakes just as intimidating. I had plenty of time to think about what was waiting for me on the other end. (“A reflective portrayal of the ascent of goodness, reconciliation and love,” AGO Magazine) HYPERLINK: BOOK CLUB QUESTIONS

IN TRANSIT— “You’re leaving.” It was an accusation. My daughter, Danielle, stood framed in the doorway of her guest bedroom, a hand braced on her pantsuit-clad hip and her brown drawn in a tight squint of a frown. It wasn’t like her, but she returned home early from her job as a reference librarian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and caught me red-handed. I was stuffing a zip-it plastic bag with my toothbrush and cosmetics into the side pocket of the canvas suitcase sitting wide-open on the bed, already full to bulging. Keep packing. It was that, or confront the hurt and confusion in my daughter’s eyes. […] Forty-two years. We would have been married forty-two years last spring, the month Dan died. Yet here I was, walking away from my closest flesh-and-blood ties to those memories, propelling myself into the unknown when everything in me cried out to hold on. “I’m sixty-three going on sixty-four and your Dad wouldn’t have wanted me to live like this,” I said, quietly zipping shut the suitcase flap. (“Wisdom, the kind that only a lifetime of experience can wield.”)    HYPERLINK: BOOK CLUB QUESTIONS

SCHOLARSrescaledCOMMUNITY OF SCHOLARS — A woman in jeans and a blazer, a scuffed green canvas book bag slung over one shoulder, had taken up vigil in the corridor outside A. J. Ferinelli’s basement office in the Academic Center. It wasn’t an everyday occurrence at seven o’clock on a Thursday morning in October. But it certainly was an improvement, A. J. decided, over the night janitor finishing his rounds. Her back was turned, revealing dark hair in an intricate twist at the nape of her neck. She didn’t hear him coming. They had installed new carpet over the patchy tile flooring of the building several months ago. “Looking for someone—?” (“Five-stars, a riveting thriller of academe, highly recommended”)  HYPERLINK: BOOK CLUB QUESTIONS

SECOND LEAVES: GROWING YOUNG GARDENERS — Combines a storybook, early reader and beginning botany text with beautiful full-color photos of plants from seed to sprout to flower. While gardening, a child learns what it means to grow: to appreciate his or her uniqueness and individuality. Recognizing those “second leaves” becomes the adventure of a lifetime. (“Thrilled…adults will learn as much as the kids,” David Kidd, MI pastor and well-known horticulturist; “A superb addition to your classroom library,”  Janet Beam Smith, reading specialist;  “A wonderful grandparent book to pass along the things we love best…,” Easton, MD)
bluejeancoverrflatfrontonlywebsiteTHROUGH THE GARDENER’S YEAR:  52 Weekly Thoughts on Gardens, Gardeners and the Gardening Life.  Best-of-the-best columns from the Petoskey, MI News-Review from 2007-2014. Revised and edited, with 63 stunning black and white illustrations of plants and flowers, including from the author’s personal gardens, by professional photographer John J. Agria PhD.

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