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Publisher's Summary

“A quirky, funny, and deeply thoughtful book” (Hello Giggles) that’s “filled with characters you’ll love and wish you lived next door to in real life” (Bustle) from the author of The Bookish Life of Nina Hill.   

Lilian Girvan has been a single mother for three years - ever since her husband died in a car accident. One mental breakdown and some random suicidal thoughts later, she's just starting to get the hang of this widow thing. She can now get her two girls to school, show up to work, and watch TV like a pro. The only problem is she's becoming overwhelmed with being underwhelmed. 

At least her textbook-illustrating job has some perks - like actually being called upon to draw whale genitalia. Oh, and there's that vegetable-gardening class her boss signed her up for. Apparently, being the chosen illustrator for a series of boutique vegetable guides means getting your hands dirty literally. Wallowing around in compost on a Saturday morning can't be much worse than wallowing around in pajamas and self-pity. 

After recruiting her kids and insanely supportive sister to join her, Lilian shows up at the Los Angeles botanical garden feeling out of her element. But what she'll soon discover - with the help of a patient instructor and a quirky group of gardeners - is that into every life a little sun must shine, whether you want it to or not.... 

©2017 Abbi Waxman (P)2017 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“What a treat!! Abbi Waxman is one of the wittiest voices in the world today. The Garden of Small Beginnings is a beautiful book full of humor, heart, and deep insight. An intimate and hilarious journey about a young mom moving on from grief. Reading it gave me the feeling I was talking to a really funny, open mom-friend sharing secrets about life, love, loss, and gardening! Abbi Waxman’s quick wit and heart shine brightly throughout this debut novel. I just loved it!” (Molly Shannon, actress)

“Waxman's skill at characterization...lifts this novel far above being just another 'widow finds love' story. Clearly an observer, Waxman has mastered the fine art of dialogue as well. Characters ring true right down to Lilian's two daughters, who often steal the show. This debut begs for an encore from Waxman.” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)

“Kudos to debut author Waxman for creating an endearing and realistic cast of main and supporting characters (including the children). Her narrative and dialog are drenched with spring showers of witty and irreverent humor, which provides much respite from the underlying grief theme.” (Library Journal, starred review)

What listeners say about The Garden of Small Beginnings

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Absolutely Wonderful

I loved this book. It's the story of a widow with small children and her life as she navigates widowhood. It's witty and sarcastic at times, but you also know that she had one of those rare and great loves. She can't ever find that again. Or can she? It's also the story of all of the people in a gardening class she takes and how they all no matter how different they all are, become important to not only her, but all of them to each other. Friendships, family, and the distinct possibility of a new love, made this a listen that I highly recommend to readers ages 16 plus. Any and all readers, as the story is just that good!
Narration: 5 stars. Just perfect in every way. Can't imagine anyone doing a better job!

8 people found this helpful

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Excellent performance of a great story

Emily Rankin's narrations are consistently superb and "The Garden of Small Beginnings" was no exception. The story was sweet and made a solo road trip for work feel much less lonely. I was rooting for the characters and found myself extremely emotional upon the book's end.

5 people found this helpful

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Bury this book in the garden

This is close to the most awful book I have ever read. Very predictable. Only redeeming quilters are the gardening tips at the beginning of each chapter. Ugh.

5 people found this helpful

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Beautiful Story

Truly a beautiful and meaningful story. I thoroughly enjoyed the characters and the narrator's sense of humor, even when discussing some of the darker tragedies of her story, was inspiring and enjoyable. I laughed. I cried. I didn't want it to end.

3 people found this helpful

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A lovely summer read

A very enjoyable book. It will make you laugh, smile and even learn a trick or two on gardening.

3 people found this helpful

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enchanting story

I loved it! laughed and cried through it. thoroughly enjoyed the characters, the story , the light hearted relatable humor . it was well written and preformed.

2 people found this helpful

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A shared LA literature universe

NOTE - I listened to this on Audible. And Emily Rankin as a narrator is a treat.

I discovered Abbi Waxman when “The Bookish Life of Nina Hill” was on every “Must Read” list this summer. So I listened to that one first and LOVED it. Waxman writes characters that are flawed, funny, sarcastic and human...even if some of their life circumstances
are a bit meet-cute/romantic comedy. But that’s what makes them enjoyable. She writes romantic comedies as if they were written by someone with just enough cynicism and real life experience that MAYBE they could actually happen. They have actual heart and are relatively grounded in reality.

So, I was a little surprised at how poignant her first book was. Ultimately, “The Garden of Small Beginnings” revolves around Lili, her sister Rachel, and Lili’s two daughters, Clare and Annabelle. Lili is still grieving the loss of her husband, but overall handling it well, and finds herself assigned to a gardening class so she can illustrate a book that will hopefully save the publishing company she works for.

So already, this is a more adult book with more adult themes than “Nina Hill.” Waxman still brings her humor, heart and sarcasm that makes all her characters relateable - but this one is almost tinged with sadness.

I enjoyed this book because it’s also about relationships, and through the gardening club, we meet an interesting array of characters who all liven up the story. I appreciated the feeling of community that was created among the club, and it reminded me that we can still form friendships as adults. And...since I read “Bookish Life” first, a number of these characters appear to be a part of Waxman’s shared LA universe - which is actually a fun little surprise. We first meet them here - but they end up in Waxman’s third book - which is a nice little touch.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the book - I just feel it ambles along a bit too much. The Gardening Club members are a key part of the story, but sometimes feel cobbled together. Lili has a therapist, but I feel the hook should have included more of her sessions. Their brief appearances often feel like they are shoe-horned in to provide some needed exposition and explain some growth or motives in Lili. Every now and then Lili goes on these diatribes about her feelings that bring the mood of the story really low. The story takes many different turns, but sometimes lacks focus and seems a bit distracted. I understand Rachel plays a key part, but her relationship with Richard Burns (and Impossibly Handsome Bob) seem to dilute the fact this is supposed to be Lili’s story. This is why I gave it three stars. If i had read this one first, I may have been a little more reticent to read the authors’ other books.

But having read “Hill” first, I am glad I read this one - because at the end of the day - Waxman is damn talented. She can tell a quirky story but still bring a mature and realistic point of view. She allows her characters to be nerdy, unique and vulnerable. They are real in that they experience highs and lows, but without all the melodrama that permeates some other books in adjacent genres.

In terms of Rankin’s narration - she’s great. She plays Clare and Annabelle just cute enough, without making them annoying. She conveys Lili’s emotions - from sarcasm to grief to love - incredibly well. Although, her characterization of Edward - the garden club teacher and potential love interest for Lili - makes him sound like a 50 year old German army general rather than a young, study gardening genius. So if you can get past that, you’ll be fine.

2 people found this helpful

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Surprised

I didn’t think I’d like a book about a widow and gardening but I completely underestimated Abbi Wacman’s writing. The story was great and drew me in instantly.

1 person found this helpful

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A beautiful, emotional ride

I adored this book. I know of the author from Broad City, which led me to want to listen to this book. It is insightful and emotional and extremely well read.

Fair warning: It got quite a few tears from me.

1 person found this helpful

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Great book

It was an excellent book...I especially enjoyed The story which Incorporated vegetables Gardening tips in it.

1 person found this helpful