Margaret Roach has been harvesting 30 years of backyard parables - deceptively simple, instructive stories from a life spent digging ever deeper - and has distilled them in this memoir along with her best tips for garden making, discouraging all manner of animal and insect opponents, at-home pickling, and more. After ruminating on the bigger picture in her memoir And I Shall Have Some Peace There, Margaret Roach has returned to the garden, insisting as ever that we must garden with both our head and heart, or as she expresses it, with "horticultural how-to and woo-woo."
InThe Backyard Parables, Roach uses her fundamental understanding of the natural world, philosophy, and life to explore the ways that gardening saved and instructed her, and meditates on the science and spirituality of nature, reminding her listeners and herself to keep on digging.
©2013 Margaret Roach (P)2013 Gildan Media LLC
"As a passionate, hopeful and often self-delusional gardener (the only kind of gardener there is!), I loved this book. Margaret Roach writes with intelligence, compassion, and-most of all-sanity. Her work is a blessing." (Elizabeth Gilbert, bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love)
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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