This was my first T. C. Boyle book to read. I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite its rather glaring flaws. A picture is worth a thousand words and in Boyle’s case that picture is very finely focused. If crisp literary description is not your thing, you are likely to finds this book tedious.
Despite all of the fine description these characters remain rather one dimensional and predictable. He seems to set out with a literary device that he does not have patience to fully develop. Two of his characters get the embellishment of lineage. Despite the context of parents and grandparents, these characters remain of rather limited dimension. Furthermore, the author seems to tire of the device and does not stick with it very well.
He sets out on the noble path to show two sides of a complex issue but there, too, he fails. His amazing power of description just does not extend as well to character or context. One side of the story gets many more pages, more context and less villainous characters. Despite himself the author takes a side.
But, for me, his ability to describe, not just the physical world, but perception of it, is well worth the structural problems. In fact, I found it surprising and interesting that he could describe perception so well without emotional complexity. Emotion is viewed through the same objective lens as a foggy coast line.
Please mark religious books as such!!! And now I am suspecting a motive on the part of Audible. I was sucked in because this book was only 3.95 but not a word was said about it being bible based. I live in the south and get quite enough Christianity shoved down my throat without being tricked into it. This is not the first time that this has happened with Audible.
Lest you think that my only objection to this book was its religious overtones, let me assure you that an hour into the book before I got too angry to go on, I had not heard anything other than very trite platitudes delivered as if they were commandments from god. The reader is a typical southern patriarchal man acting as if he has access to unique insights and the generosity to sell them. This is the height of arrogance and the depth of ignorance.
Clearly there are many who appreciate this kind of guidance. I pity them.
I am two chapters (25:47) into this darn thing and I will not go further. There was nothing in what I read about this book that gave a clue that it was religious. There may be those who would like to claim that it is not; but citing chapter and verse from the bible over and over does make this an annoyingly religious book. Lo these 25 and three quarter minutes of wasted life and not a shred of wisdom or meaning. What we have is nearly half an hour of being told, in the vagest of ways that these nine unidentified things are going to make us a success in what ever way we choose to define success. I assume that one of these nine gems of wisdom will tell us not to follow miss-marked paths. Beware the path you will be headed down if you embark upon this book. Really, Audible, I want my credit back!
I enjoyed this book, perhaps more than the rating might suggest. But then again I am pliable and tolerant in the face of good writing. Let's get the negatives out of the way. The most obvious is the reading. The author's reading is very monotoned and at times too fast. This may be a deal breaker for some, and though I usually do not put too much emphasis on this category, I have to say, it was difficult at first. But it got better. I'm not sure if this had to do with my own habituation or if she improved over time. By the end it was an aspect of the personality of the book and I was more than used to it.
Also this book was much more memoir than parable. In fact the attempt to make it parable seemed a bit strained. Perhaps it is just me, but I expect a parable to be rather directly moralizing, or, maybe, I am just lazy and expected her to connect the dots more literally. But Parables are not metaphors. They should be much more in your face preachy. Though she is nicely opinionated, this does not come through in the telling of parables. I'm sure that most gardeners find parable in every shovel of soil, at least I do. But this soil is abundant with interpretation. A parable is not quite so distracted by ambiguity. But a good memoir usually is.
Finally, I would note that this book is rather devoid of human contact. Perhaps a more fitting title would have been Backyard Fables as it has distinctive animal characters. The book is ripe with connection to the plants and animals of the garden but people only appear as resource to that endeavor and there is little sense of connection there. This is not solipsism but a choice.
Having listed the negatives, let me now say that I immensely enjoyed this book. It is in the spirit of transcendentalism. This garden is Waldon Pond visited not for two years but for twenty five and counting. Thoreau wrote of an experience with his environment. Margaret Roach writes of a relationship with her environment. There are two distinctly different personalities of gardener: The pensive and the task oriented. Don't be deceived, Roach is far more the later. And it is her diligence in writing that provides foder for thought. This book is not unlike gardening, it requires a little patience, but it is well worth the effort.
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